Social Networking and the Free Market Case for Universal Healthcare

With very few exceptions, healthcare is not best provided by the private sector.  Pharmaceuticals require too much investment in research & development and carry too much liability to be profitable (which is why a huge proportion of the research is taxpayer-funded).  Producing increasing profitability demands that private insurers frequently run overhead costs many times those of government-run programs at inflated costs while decreasing the quality of care.

If the US is able to create a universal healthcare system comparable to those elsewhere in the developed world, it will spur tremendous growth in all sorts of sectors by radically changing overhead cost structures with an army of independent contractors.  Here’s how:

1) Social networking platforms are already allowing people to, as Clay Shirky put it, “organize without organizations.”  This has variety of benefits – from creating efficiencies that allow service providers to move more nimbly to (more importantly) eliminating the massive overhead costs that organizations carry with them.

The “drag of atoms” (to paraphrase Jeff Jarvis) in the form of maintaining office space alone can cost $15,000 per employee per year according to a recent Wired Magazine article on telecommuting.  How much more overhead could be shaved from the cost of each transaction if there were no need for management, human resources and payroll operations?

2) One of the major impediments to anyone joining the growing army of freelancers is the cost of healthcare.  Individually it’s devastating to one’s budget.  This is likely why the rates of the non-agricultural self-employed are far lower in the US than they are in other developed nations with publicly-provided healthcare.

If one believes that an increasing share of the work in the world will be done by an army of freelance contractors collaborating on a per-project basis (as many futurists do) – it then becomes clear that the ability of the US economy to compete in the global marketplace requires us to to foster the growth of this segment of the workforce through universal healthcare.

This way of doing business has other benefits as well; millions fewer cars on the road commuting (producing pollution and traffic congestion) and a greater ability to strike a healthy work-life balance, among others.  Something to think about.

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