BUSINESS FRIENDLY HEALTHCARE….Who’s in favor of the prescription drug benefit currently wending its way through Congress? Seniors, obviously, since they will have to spend less on drugs. And drug companies, of course, since they get to sell more drugs.

But it turns out that a big chunk of the business community is in favor too:

The bills to provide drug benefits through Medicare that were passed by the House and the Senate last week offer some of the country’s largest employers a long-sought prize: shifting at least some of their burden of soaring drug costs to the federal government.

….The 28,000 employers who provide drug benefits to retirees are spending $22.5 billion this year for their former employees’ prescriptions, according to a study by Hewitt Associates, a consulting firm, and the Kaiser Family Foundation.

This doesn’t surprise me at all. In fact, I’ve wondered for a long time why proponents of single payer healthcare haven’t been more successful in getting the business community on their side. Sure, it’s “socialized medicine,” and God knows we hate anything that reeks of socialism in America, but healthcare is one of the biggest pains in the butt that American businesses have to put up with, and they hate it. Costs keep going up, regulations are fierce, employees gripe about it incessantly, administration costs are high, and the payback for all this is exactly zero.

I don’t know the history of healthcare reform well enough to know the answer to this, but it sure seems as if some nice, moderate, business-friendly Democrat could craft a plan that would have widespread support in the business community and thus hive off some support from moderate Republicans as well. Of course, that’s a perfect description of Bill Clinton, and he couldn’t do it, so maybe there’s more to it.

Whatever it is, though, I can’t think of it. I’m surprised the business lobby hasn’t been pushing on this all along.

UPDATE: Of course, it would need one of those cool names that Newt Gingrich was so good at coming up with. “The Socialized Medicine Act of 2003” wouldn’t do, for example, but maybe “The Business Freedom and Health Bureaucracy Reduction Act of 2003” would play well. How about it?

UPDATE: James Joyner suggests that we might be closer to universal healthcare than we think:

It seems to me that we’re about 2/3 of the way there now. Currently, the elderly, the poor, the active military, some disabled folks, and most government workers get free or heavily-subsidized government health benefits. Once the working middle class realize they’re paying for everyone else, it won’t be hard to persuade them to make the system universal.

As I recall, federal and state governments already account for nearly half of all healthcare spending in the country. We may not be quite 2/3 there, but we’re halfway there anyway.