President Obama is right to focus on healthcare as part of the economic crisis. Critics of his initial healthcare proposals argue that his goals for healthcare "reform" are taking our emphasis off of the economy. This view is narrow-minded and short sighted. We cannot fix the economy without addressing healthcare. Dealing with healthcare is dealing with the economy as healthcare is one of the largest industries in the United States and accounts for an ever increasing cost for most major employers in the economy.
Recently, much attention has centered on the bailout of the automotive industry, but healthcare is arguably more important to job retention and creation in our economy. If all of the big three automakers went out of business, doomsday scenarios forecast by the Center for Automotive research predict a loss of 1.7 to 3 million jobs.
Contrast this to the healthcare industry, which provided 14 million jobs in 2006 and is expected to create more US jobs than any other industry. Employment options in healthcare are diverse and available for workers with no college education, as well as for those with advanced degrees.
Healthcare impacts the life of every American. Our healthcare system affects jobs throughout our economy, especially since many Americans get private health insurance through their employers.
Rising healthcare costs are currently crippling our businesses and preventing people from getting access to necessary care. Such costs have forced employers to cut pay, layoff workers, and raise out-of-pocket costs paid by individual employees.
Importantly, the poor comparative performance by US automakers has also been attributed to higher healthcare costs in the United States. Starbucks reports paying more money on employee health than they do on coffee; GM spends more on health than they do on steel. When a car is produced in the United states, $1500 of the cost is attributed to healthcare, which far exceeds the expenses paid by auto producers in other countries.
Towards healthcare enhancement
Rather than pursuing healthcare "reform," the president's goals, and optimism are better termed "Healthcare Enhancement." By inviting a broad based coalition of Democrats, Republicans and leaders from all areas across healthcare to the White House, the President is setting the stage for genuine change.
Focusing on quality and investing in research will create jobs and save lives. These are not short-sighted ideas and such proposals would enhance rather than diminish our current healthcare options.
The economic and healthcare crises exist together and must be addressed as one. I am encouraged by stimulus spending that includes $6 billion for cancer research and $19 billion allocated towards a long overdue update of the information technology used in doctors' offices and hospitals. These are not pork nor earmark projects; they are investments in our health, in our economy, and in our future.