Charlie Munger supports single payer reform

Charlie Munger says single-payer healthcare is the solution

By Andy Serwer
Yahoo Finance, May 7, 2017

Charlie Munger says that single-payer healthcare is the answer to fix the nation’s healthcare system woes. A longstanding Republican, the Berkshire Hathaway vice-chairman acknowledges it is an unusual position for someone from his party to espouse.

“I’m not a normal Republican,” he said, noting that there’s “a lot wrong” with the system.

“Having a basic level of care for everybody with no insurance aspect as a right I think is a good idea” Munger said.

Munger, who Berkshire CEO Warren Buffett calls his partner, made the remarks in Omaha the day after Berkshire’s annual meeting. Munger said there’s good and bad parts of our healthcare system.

“At the top, it’s the best medical care in the world,” Munger said. He explained that if you have a difficult type of cancer or you’re in need acute care, you’re better off in the U.S. than anywhere else.

“That’s the good part,” he said. “The bad part is the Rube Goldberg system that arose by accident. There’s massive amounts of excess cost.”

“And of course the politicians on each side don’t want to figure this out, they just hate each other and scream at each other, so it’s a disgusting outcome. And of course the cost goes up three, four, five six percent a year!”

I asked Munger how to fix it.

“A benign despot would create a single payer system with people being able to opt out into private care that was a little faster or a little fancier like all of Europe and Canada,” he said.

I asked Munger if he was saying that a single-payer system is really the answer.

“Yes,” he said.

With an opt-out on the high end?

“Yes,” he said.

“I think you young people will live to see a healthcare system that looks a lot like Canada’s with a better private opt out system,” Munger said. “I won’t.” (Munger is 93.)

During the meeting, Warren Buffett called rising healthcare costs “a tapeworm,” eating away at American business. Munger agreed and added that U.S. manufacturers have a “huge competitive disadvantage caused by the health system” over say European counterparts since U.S. businesses have to pay for health care costs while European companies don’t.”



By Don McCanne, M.D.

When a prominent Republican Wall Street billionaire, Charlie Munger, endorses single payer, it is clear that the message is getting across.

Also, when his partner, Warren Buffet, says that U.S. manufacturers have a huge competitive disadvantage caused by the health system, then all of Wall Street and the business community at large should be listening as well and then taking action in support of single payer reform.

(One concern is that he calls for wealthier individuals being able to opt out into faster or fancier care, presumably creating a two-tiered system. Perhaps the wealthy should be allowed extras that should not be part of a publicly financed system, such as a hospital penthouse suite, but they should not automatically be granted a position at the front of a queue for essential services. In an equitable, egalitarian system we need them to advocate for policies that reduce excessive queues so that everyone, including themselves, has timely access to appropriate care. However this should not deter Munger from supporting single payer, since, as a billionaire, he will always have a place at the front of the queue, no matter the rules.)