Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Business Roundtable Shines Light on U.S. Health Care Shortcomings


I imagine the Business Rountable to very similar to depictions of the Knights of the Round Table: Large, well dressed men sitting around a round table (who would have thunk) discussing how powerful and wonderful they are and then getting down to solving the problems of the world.

In reality, the Business Roundtable is a group of modern-day powerhouses-the CEO's of America's largest corporations, in fact. The purpose of the Business Roundtable (to be referred to as BT throughout the rest of the article) is to unite these bigwigs and hope they can churn out some good solutions to the world's problems. I mean, who better to address all the poverty and despair in the world then some of the wealthiest folks in America, right? Sarcasm aside, I find myself impressed with a recent study that the BT released, comparing the success/cost of health care in the United States with that of European countries.

Considering that the recent economic malaise has sent numbers of former employees to the ranks of the uninsured - or even, gasp, resorting to self-employed health insurance - the findings are grim, a little nauseating. Still, there may be nuggets of wisdom the U.S. Government can take to make some much needed changes.

The U.S. Health Disadvantage

Here is a little bit on what the BT's study found regarding the United States health care system. It's estimated that the United States spends nearly $643 billion more every year on health care than other industrialized countries like France, Germany and Japan. The BT rounded up 19 different metrics of looking at a method for measuring the impact of health care spending on U.S. global economic competitiveness. What did the BT find? "The United States stands at a 23% disadvantage relative to five leading economic competitors: Canada, France, Japan, Germany, and the United Kingdom (the so-called G-5 group); and a 46% disadvantage relative to the emerging competitors of Brazil, India and China (BIC).” To continue, the report states “As a group, workers and employers in G-5 countries spend approximately 63 cents for every dollar we (U.S.) spend on health care. The gap is even wider when we look at the BIC (Brazil, India, China) group; they spend just 15 cents for every dollar we spend on health care. These health spending gaps persist after adjustment for our higher per capita GDP (Gross Domestic Product).”

Take a minute to let all of that sink in.

If you're a regular reader of this blog, you'll recall that a few months prior I wrote a piece about the different health care models in large countries around the globe, how much they cost for the country in a given year and how much they cost consumers. Most industrialized nations have something similar to a universal or nationalized health care system. There are variations, of course, but they all stand in a similar ilk. The United States really stands all alone in it's little corner while those in European countries not only spend less, but get more thorough, easily accessible and affordable care. What is wrong with this picture?

One thing I did read that lightened my spirits a bit is this: the study "has had profound influence on the thinking of Obama’s White House staff of economists and analysts." Let's make some changes here people.

photo credit: hans s