GM Health Care Cost Problems Require Federal Intervention, Brownstein Writes
General Motor's health care problems are "too big for GM and its workers to resolve alone," columnist Ronald Brownstein writes in a Los Angeles Times opinion piece. Although the automaker's "fundamental problem" is that it "has not designed enough cars that consumers like," there is "no question that unsustainable health care bills are compounding its distress," Brownstein writes. Unless "national action" is taken by lawmakers, "the prognosis is for perpetual conflict and economic strain unless the overall increase in medical costs is slowed."
According to Brownstein, the "inability of even a massive consumer like GM" to control its health care costs "belies the simplistic suggestions" from the Bush administration that "transferring more of the costs to individuals will significantly reduce costs by making patients smarter consumers." Brownstein writes that "meaningful cost control requires a comprehensive agenda," beginning with "modernizing" health care's "antiquated record-keeping and billing systems," using methods such as that proposed last week by Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) and Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.). Secondly, Medicare should be able to negotiate prescription drug prices to help "lower the massive pharmaceutical costs now inflating health care spending," Brownstein adds.
He writes that "more creative efforts to encourage fitness" are needed to "reduce the incidence of expensive illnesses ... linked to a widening ... obesity problem." In addition, he says that covering more of the uninsured would "shrink the huge bill for uncompensated care ... that the insured pay through higher premiums." Each step would require "more federal spending or intervention in the market," Brownstein writes, concluding that "[w]hen it comes to controlling health care costs, an old diagnosis applies: What is good for GM actually would be good for America" (Brownstein, Los Angeles Times, 6/20).