Health Care and the Environment

I think we blogged about this some time ago, perhaps when GM was on the brink of disaster, but this seems like an opportune time for a reminder. I have been searching around for the past few days to see if anyone is blogging about the connections between health care and the environment. Save for the no brainer, “environment dictates health and quality of life argument,” I haven’t really found what I am looking for. No Impact Man has some interesting thoughts about how if we cut ourselves off from the “matrix treadmill,” which is the work –> sleep –> consume –> work –> consume cycle, and try to separate ourselves from unfulfilling work, quite often, we are left without health insurance. Health care is a perk as it turns out… Interesting thought. Green_Doc

But what is more compelling to me, is an argument introduced by Michael Shellenberger and Ted Nordhaus a few years ago in their essay, then book, “The Death of Environmentalism.”  On page 19, there is a bit of a scolding towards the contemporary environmental movement for being too narrow in their inclusion of what constitutes their causes. While that may be true, there is a more important argument regarding health care, the economy, and the environment. As Obama said, “Put simply, our health care problem is our deficit problem.  Nothing else even comes close.” Essentially, Shellenberger and Nordhaus equate high costs of health care for American companies as part of the reason they are at a significant disadvantage. From the essay:

“G.M. covers the health care costs of 1.1 million Americans, or close to half a percent of the total
population,” wrote the New York Times’ Danny Hakim recently.5 “For G.M., which earned $1.2 billion
[in profits] last year, annual health spending has risen to $4.8 billion from $3 billion since 1996… retiree medical costs are one reason Toyota’s $10.2 billion profit in its most recent fiscal year was more than double the combined profi t of the Big Three.” Because Japan has national health care, its auto companies aren’t stuck with the bill for its retirees.”

Now, we know what happened with the Big Three and this argument again, was scolding environmental groups to remind them that perhaps its not crazy to join the fight for universal health care, in exchange for a clause on better mileage.  But in my eyes, this is also a legitimate research and development concern. If we are spending all this money on health care for retired personnel, how much money is potentially diverted from R and D? And of course, now that we as American tax payers essentially own GM, I am having a hard time wrapping my brain around who is paying for that health care at this point.  If anyone can explain that one, please share.

All other arguments aside, all the heart breaking and sometimes embarassing stories of health care gone wrong in this country, this line of logic should quiet even the staunchest private provider promoter…or atleast it will help them to see this in a new light? Environmentalists, are you ready to join the health care reformers?


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Comments (1)


  1. In the end we all end up paying for health care anyway. Whether we are paying for it through the ER write-offs or through universal healthcare, its all going to come out of our pocket anyway, we just might as well embrace it and try to do some damage control, sensibly.


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