Healthcare Cost Hardly Kills Generous Business


Farouk Martins Aresa


It may seem like an inappropriate time to talk about healthcare cost in view of the present economic downturn; especially at a time when big businesses are crying for relief under the burden of generous benefits provided to their employees and retirees. However, some professionals are saying it may be the best time to propose a system that many countries can afford before the world recovers from recession.


It has got to a stage where we have to admit that healthcare and social care can not be hung around the neck of the richest companies of the world alone. There used to be a time when there was no lay off of workers in Japan. That disappeared when the capitalist system could no longer carry the full weight of a generous social custom. So how do we pay for health care and social services?


In the first place, infrastructures generate solid jobs and no reliable jobs can be created or built on, without dependable infrastructure. A country that can not subsidize it agriculture to provide food beyond its boundaries will eventually be reduced to a beggar. Agriculture provides jobs not only at the grassroots levels but up to industrial stage requiring well educated graduates. The by products of infrastructure and agricultures are jobs requiring people with sound health and mind.


Both infrastructure and healthcare can go together in preventive medicine. One of the greatest endeavors of medicine is in the engineering of the sewage system that has almost wiped out infectious and parasitic diseases in the western countries. It is a miracle which is now taken for granted, but must be repeated, that have allowed inventions in secondary and tertiary medicine. We must understand that without this basic infrastructure, western world would still be in the land of witches and superstitions like the developing countries.


Roads, railways, public transportation, water and waste treatment are expensive basic infrastructures that have to be subsidized. Good schools to keep youths busy also prevent crimes. Youth’s education must be geared to infrastructure, agriculture and healthcare.

Each and every developed country at one point or the other has to invest in these. These are social cost that changed a civilized society into a modern one. We may debate our priorities on: jobs, private health insurance, retirement nest or infrastructure. However, Nigeria has none that is dependable.


There is always a social role for companies in developing countries or anywhere. Nigeria has some companies providing subsidized healthcare, housing villag es and schools to their employees. These benefits are provided beyond and above those provided by any community we find ourselves. The same was true with churches in those days, unlike today’s Nigerian churches that are getting richer but its members cannot afford to attend their schools or eat in their restaurants. We cannot rely on Nigeria’s capitalism only for the benefit of a few lucky individuals that are politicians or those connected to good jobs.


Individual salary, no matter how high, does not dictate good standard of living. High income can buy exotic schools, tertiary healthcare anywhere and luxuries for a few but not for all. Part of health services are hidden cost. Doctors and other health workers are trained to take care of individuals, not to deal with paperwork from mushroom companies that increase cost and waste valuable time. Too many billings by different insurers that can be regulated in this computer age and their brand name drugs drive healthcare cost.


One of the best argument advanced by US individual form of healthcare is the loss of choice of treatment by whom and where. Furthermore, they claimed that any variance from it will crowd out, destroy or dilute the best form of healthcare in the US by the intervention of Government of the day. The comparison of Auto industry has blown that.


The Government has to work with these individual organizations to provide health and social welfare to the people so that the weight is evenly distributed instead of being seen as voluntary burden on some companies. The amount of weight or general tax that has to be shared to pay the cost must be progressive. Those who are calling it social medicine yesterday are now advocating the Canadian type of healthcare because the auto industry see reduce cost.


The sorry state of the United Auto Workers in United States today and their fall from the cushion of generous benefits including full healthcare, padded unemployment benefits and cozy retirement have taken their tool. General Motors, Ford and Chrysler can no longer carry thei r social cost and make profits at the same time comfortably. However, it is not the generous benefit that weighed them down, it is the obstinate ideology of their executives not to adapt to new technologies fast enough.


Nigeria did not have the opportunity to debate or discuss what to do with oil riches and never settled on how to distribute it until it contributed to the civil war. Unfortunately, the environmental disaster caused by the same oil is solely born by a backyard that produces the income. So Ghana is looking at Nigeria and we hope they learn. They do not need one more politician, increase in their salaries or need to create another state.


The amount of helplessness and poverty rampant in developing countries today can not be tolerated in any country that made the same amount of money as Nigeria. This is why the is sue during election in Ghana was very refreshing. If we want, we can debate our future or personalities during free and fair election. But before banking on anticipated revenue from oil that has been discovered in commercial quantity in Ghana, we may be tempted to wait. The election was how Ghana is going to spend the income: infrastructure or to be filtered away by politicians for personal aggrandizement like Nigeria.


Ghana has to decide right now how much to spend on infrastructure, how much to spend on environmental disaster prevention and healthcare. Waiting for individual companies or churches to provide a collective duty for a selected employees, members or privileged few at the expense of the whole population is courting trouble in Animal Kingdom. During depression many of these organizations shed benefits and healthcare will be the first causality as we see with the US companies.


Developing countries do not have to go through all the steps of Japan and United States to come out with a blue print. We came, we saw and we can learn. The social cost of caring for one another does not belong to one company, one individual and only one family; it belongs to the whole community. As it takes a community to raise a child, so does it take the whole country to provide health and social care