Published on

Marketplace Radio Program (American Public Media)

The following commentary by FTCR President Jamie Court, was broadcast on Thursday, May 10th, 2007 on American Public Media’s Marketplace program on NPR. Click here to listen to the audio of the commentary.

KAI RYSSDAL (HOST): There are two things you can mention to almost any CEO in this country that
will provoke an immediate response, one is global warming and how to balance protecting the environment with protecting the economy. The other is health care and how companies can protect their bottom lines. Safeway CEO Steve Burd launched a health care reform effort this week. Burd and three-dozen other
Fortune 500 CEOs are calling for a market solution. Commentator and consumer advocate Jamie Court says that’s great, but the market is the problem.

JAMIE COURT (COMMENTATOR AND CONSUMER ADVOCATE): Some of the biggest names on the Fortune 500 say they want market forces to fix the problem of high health care costs. So they support the government making every American buy health insurance. The irony is that if insurers had made health insurance affordable and available, we wouldn’t need the heavy hand of government to force individuals to buy policies. The likes of Safeway, PepsiCo, General Mills and Pacific Gas and Electric don’t have a plan to effectively rein in health care costs. They don’t do anything about the inefficiency and profiteering of drug makers or health insurers whose premiums have risen 250 percent more quickly than the rate of medical inflation.

That’s probably because insurers Aetna, Cigna, Healthcare, PacifiCare and drug maker Eli Lilly are part of the Safeway coalition, too. If the employers don’t wanna pay premiums, fine. They should just admit the market doesn’t work and turn the job over to the government by expanding Medicare. That’s how it’s done
in the rest of the industrialized world, where there’s far more efficiency. The World Health Organization ranked the USA 37th of 191 countries for overall health system performance, 72nd for level of health, and first for health expenditures per capita.

And there’s no way that mandatory health insurance is gonna help those numbers. Real universal health care means getting every patient access to doctors, hospitals and prescription drugs whenever they need it, so that sick patients don’t get sicker. And that saves money. Instead, these companies back turning government into a collections agent for private insurers. That leaves American citizens bearing the burden of big costs and high-deductible insurance policies that discourage early treatment. That’s not reform. It’s a bailout for insurers and drug companies that refuse to be accountable for the high prices they charge and the paltry health care they provide.

KAI RYSSDAL (HOST): Jamie Court is the president of the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights. What do you think? Tell us at Click on the link that says contact.

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