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Business group calls American health care ineffective, unaffordable

The Business Roundtable, representing CEOs of a number of major corporations, went on the offensive this week, calling for changes in the American health care system.  It claimed that Americans spend $1928 per person on health care, TWO AND ONE-HALF TIMES MORE THAN ANY OTHER ADVANCED COUNTRY.  Despite this high level of spending, which the CEOs claim puts us at an enormous disadvantage in the world economy, the Roundtable claims Americans still fall behind Canada, Japan, Germany, the UK and France on a 100-point "effectiveness" scale.  These countries also achieve universal coverage:  a vanishing goal in America.  The CEOs claim that the U.S. falls even further behind on the "effectiveness scale" when compared with emerging economies such as China, Brazil and India.

According to the authors of the report, other nations spend significantly less on health care and yet achieve a healthier work force.  The report is long on criticism but did not apparently offer much in the way of concrete, meaningful recommendations for significant improvement.  Meanwhile, the Massachusetts experiment in near-universal coverage has encountered difficulty as the economy sours. 

In Massachusetts, a bold program to achieve coverage for nearly all citizens by subsidizing insurance premiums is now experiencing runaway costs.  The Republican Governor and Democratic Legislature put off addressing the long-term viability of the program when it was enacted and the economy is now forcing the Massachusetts government to act, according to the New York Times.  Massachusetts health-care spending is already higher than the national average, and it has increased faster than the national average in 7 of the past 8 years.  Currently, residents spend 1/3 more than the national average, and state officers are investigating ways to slow the growth of insurance premiums and hospital reimbursements.

Currently, Massachusetts is attemping to formulate a plan that stresses prevention and managed care, rather than fee-for-service.    The creators of the system argue that health care providers would not have bought into the program if it had originated with a philosophy other than fee-for-service.  Critics, including Stuart Altman of Brandeis University, say that ultimately the problem of runaway health care spending cannot be solved without adopting some form of health care rationing.

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