“The problem with the U.S. health care market is that it doesn’t really function as a market – it leaves major consumer needs unmet, costs unchecked by competition and basic practices untouched by the productivity revolution that has transformed every other sector of the economy.”

That quote isn’t from a Marxist-leaning, left-wing political operative — it was spoken by Ivan Seidenberg, the Chairman and CEO of Verizon, the telecommunications firm that sits as #17 on the 2008 Fortune 100 list.

As one of the largest companies in the world, and certainly in telecomms, Seidenberg has to compete in a global market. His concerns, and those of the members of the Business Roundtable, are presented in the Health Care Value Comparability Study from the group of business leaders.

The bottom line of the report: “Our health care system is actually harming our ability to compete effectively in the global economy.”

On one hand, there’s nothing new here that GM, Ford and Chrysler and Big Steel didn’t realize when Lee Iacocca met with Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare Joseph Califano in 1984 when $600 of the price of every Chrysler car and truck was directly attributable to medical costs. That was about 10% of the sticker price of a Plymouth Horizon.

In 2009, health costs impact every business operating on a global scale, not just autos and heavy manufacturing.

The Business Roundtable found that on a weighted scale, business in America suffers from a 23% “value gap” compared to Canada, Japan, Germany, the UK and France — directly related to the costs of health care. And, compared to Brazil, India and China (the so-called “BIC” countries), the disadvantage is 46%.

In the report, the Business Roundtable uses the metaphor of a “head start” — that these countries have a leg up on American companies due to the way the U.S. finances health care.

Health Populi’s Hot Points: While GM and Ford might desire to get health care off of their financial obligations, not every employer wants to drop health insurance coverage in 2010. The latest Hewitt study into employer-sponsored health benefits found that perhaps 1 in 5 employers would consider dropping health coverage in 2010.

For other employers, though, health coverage is seen as a benefit that adds value to a productive workforce, that attracts human capital and reinforces a health-focused employee mentality.

Thus, the Business Roundtable does not recommend a single-payer or specific plan that gets industry out of the health insurance game. While large employers concur that the health costs put them at a global competitive disadvantage, they’re not yet committed to a public-sector health plan for all Americans. For the foreseeable future, the shape of a new U.S. health system will be uniquely American — a mix of private- and public-sector.

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