America’s health care system – or lack of one – leads to a stifling of economic innovation and mobility. Consider:
* Daniel Taghioff argues that people are more likely to risk starting new enterprises – leading to economic growth – in countries that have health safety nets.
Turning to entrepreneurialism – would you rather risk all to start a new business in a place like the US where if you lose everything you may end up, literally, with nothing, no health-care, no decent schooling for your kids and so on? Or would you choose a society where, if all else fails, the state (or strong social networks) will take care of you? . . . The list of countries with the most new businesses per capita is full of small to medium sized countries with strong social safety nets, or small Asian countries with very high levels of social cohesion.
* I know I didn’t quit my job until I had new health care insurance lined up, for without an employer, I wouldn’t have gotten any (and in the interim had to pay $24,000 per year in COBRA). How many people are sticking with jobs, unhappily and thus probably unproductively, just because of insurance handcuffs? What if they were freed? It would be better for them and their employers.
* General Motors was brought down by more than its its health insurance obligations. Nonetheless, those obligations weighed heavily on the company as they do on many other companies with long legacies and large staffs.
* I was at a WEF event yesterday at which one of the wise counsels pointed to the exacerbation of the health-care crisis that is coming with so many Americans unemployed. This, I think, will force the political issue.
Rather than spending billions to bail out and now even buy crumbling legacy industries and crooked banks, how much more value would universal health insurance give to the economy?
What if, instead of bailing out the past and filling potholes, the government assured universal broadband access? What would that do to spur innovation and entrepreneurship and begin to reform education, which, in turn, would spur innovation? What if education were reformed to emphasis innovation over test-taking? What if investment in new companies were a high priority of the tax code?
We are not thinking strategically enough about these issues in the political debate. We complain about companies thinking short-term but so does the nation.