A Tongue-in-Cheek Resolution for the New Year

Dec 29, 2011, 1:00 PM, Posted by Ralph Catalano

As we head into 2012, the Human Capital Blog asked Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) staff, program directors, scholars and grantees to share their New Year’s resolutions for our health care system, and what they think should be the priorities for action in the New Year. This post is by Ralph Catalano, PhD, professor of public health, Division of Community Health and Human Development, University of California, Berkeley; site director, RWJF Health & Society Scholars Program at the University of California, San Francisco-Berkeley.

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I resolve that I will ignore any allusions made to the U.S. health care system by candidates for elective office in 2012. I make this resolution because any truth in these allusions will have appeared by chance.

I suggest that the highest priority of health care advocates in the New Year should be to lobby Canadian provincial governments to sell health insurance to U.S. citizens. The provincial health care systems would compete for the business and negotiate contracts with U.S. health care providers. Medicare and Medicaid could issue vouchers worth 112 percent of the cost of providing health care to the average Canadian. The rest of us would, of course, also pay more than the average Canadian, but the price would almost surely be less than we pay to keep investors in the U.S. health insurance industry happy. And just think how happy we long-suffering health care reformers would finally be! The Canadians would make a profit and thereby maintain their domestic single-payer system that we so admire. And, most importantly, we could finally say we brought "Canadian style health care" to the United States!

I further suggest that while waiting for the Canadians to understand the benefits of exporting their health insurance expertise, we outsource voting to China. This will reduce our taxes by reducing the cost to American state and local governments of conducting elections. The average U.S. citizen, moreover, will be spared the inconvenience of having to think about governance. And since the Chinese now finance a substantial fraction of American public spending, decency alone suggests that they have a say in how we spend their money. And would they not want us to be healthy enough to work hard so we can pay back that debt? And since Canada sells so many of its commodities to China, the Chinese could be very influential in lobbying the Canadian provinces to sell health insurance in the United States. And best of all, the Chinese, not us, would have to listen to misleading political advertisements about the U.S. health care system.

This commentary originally appeared on the RWJF Human Capital Blog. The views and opinions expressed here are those of the authors.