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Editor: Katharine Van Tassel
Akron Univ. School of Law

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Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Health Care Reform According to Commonwealth Fund

The L.A. Times has an article discussing the recent Commonwealth Fund report discussing how the United States might reform health care and save money at the same time.  The article states,

Americans could save $1.5 trillion in healthcare costs over the next decade while covering the uninsured and improving overall quality, according to a report to be released today. But it would take widespread reforms to root out inefficiency, not to mention higher tobacco taxes and other levies.

"We are not getting good value for our dollar," said Karen Davis, president of the Commonwealth Fund, a New York-based research group that prepared the report. "Will we continue to head down a path of less access to care [and] higher costs . . . or will we start now to make the changes needed to transform our healthcare system?"

Intended to provide a menu of options for the next president, the report blends ideas put forward by leading political candidates with other proposals. Many of the ideas are likely to stir controversy. 
For example, the report calls for boosting the federal tobacco tax by $2 from the current 39 cents a pack. It also proposes a penny tax on 12-ounce, sugar-sweetened soft drinks to fund a campaign against obesity. And it proposes a 1% levy on insurance premiums to finance rapid computerization of records kept by doctors and hospitals. . . . .

Such a combination of different approaches -- there are a total of 15 major proposals in the report -- could work together to produce hundreds of billions in savings, the authors say. . . . .

The United States will spend about $2.3 trillion on healthcare this year, twice as much on a per-capita basis as any other country. But the health of Americans is not appreciably better than that of people in other industrialized countries, most of which offer government-run care systems.

And U.S. healthcare costs, which are growing faster than wages and faster than the economy, are projected to double in the next 10 years. Economic experts who advise both government and the business community say the current rate of growth is unsustainable. Demanding greater efficiency has become a popular refrain among Democrats and Republicans. . . .

Hopefully with a new President - we might see some changes.  Currently, President Bush does not seem to think that there is much wrong with our health care system.  He announced yesterday in Virginia,

I’m going to tell you something — we have fabulous health care in America, just so you know. I think it’s very important — before people start griping about the health care system here — and of course there’s always grounds for complaint — just to compare it with other systems around the world.

ThinkProgress provides more discussion about how our health care system compares to other countries, noting in particular,

In 2002, the U.S. spent more on health care per person than other industrial countries like Britain, Canada, France, and Germany. But unlike those countries, which have universal health care systems, there are roughly 47 million Americans who lack health coverage.

In 2000, the World Health Organization (WHO) did a comparative assessment of the health systems of 191 countries. The WHO found that in terms of the five measured performance indicators, the U.S. ranked 37th:

The U. S. health system spends a higher portion of its gross domestic product than any other country but ranks 37 out of 191 countries according to its performance, the report finds. The United Kingdom, which spends just six percent of gross domestic product (GDP) on health services, ranks 18th . Several small countries — San Marino, Andorra, Malta and Singapore are rated close behind second- placed Italy.

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