08/21/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

The "Party of Business" Gets the Business of Health Care Wrong

The United States has the worst health care system in the developed world because it is a patchwork quilt where government covers the health care needs of the riskiest -- indigent, veterans and elderly -- and leaves the gravy (young, healthy, business-covered) to private-sector health care insurance outfits.

The result is that health care insurance profits, for wealthy or employer-covered Americans, were higher than the total Canadian health care bill spent covering 100 percent of all the needs in of its 32 million residents.

The Republican Party is now trying to sabotage efforts by President Obama to start reforming the system. That party should have been leading health care reform because America's health care represents the country's greatest competitive disadvantage going forward. The party of business should have known that.

Canada's health care tab is around 10 percent of its GDP, and there is no expensive litigation undertaken after car accidents or for other reasons to recoup medical costs because they are covered by taxpayers. This saves billions of dollars.

Even so, a memo from the Republican Party stupidly boasts "the Republican Party knows we have the best health care system in the world. The Republican Party also knows it is a system in need of reform because it is costing our families and our businesses too much."
Let's examine this mythology.

America's health care tab is 15 percent of GDP, legal costs to recoup medical expenses adds up to 3percent more, and tens of millions of Americans have no coverage and inadequate coverage.

This is an unsustainable overhead and the highest in the world.

Here are the cost benefits:

  • In Canada and Europe, providing universal care has put the ambulance chasers out of business and saved a bundle.
  • An American general practitioner spends up to ten times' more insuring himself against lawsuits than his Canadian or European counterparts. Lawsuits against physicians are commonplace in order to pay unaffordable medical bills in the U.S. Lawsuits against the medical establishment are rare in Canada or Europe because all medical costs are covered by taxpayers. Eliminating ambulance chasers will lower physician insurance costs and save the system a bundle.
  • An American general practitioner spends dramatically more collecting money from dozens of hundreds of insurance companies or individuals or companies than does his Canadian or European counterparts who simply bill the single payer, their governments. These collection savings translate into lower doctors' fees.

The Republicans should back off and help devise health care reform. If the U.S. system was as intelligent as the Canadian or European ones, health care costs could be reduced by a staggering US$1.1 trillion annually -- 10 percent of GDP instead of 15 percent for medical costs and 0 percent instead of 3 percent for litigation nonsense.

The private sector, and profit motive, are inappropriate in health care which is, like clean water and good public schools, a human right, not an opportunity to gouge the public. The wisdom of universal health care is proven and accepted all over the world except in the minds of partisan ignoramuses defending the indefensible.