High Health Care Costs Could Prompt Automakers To Invest Abroad, Ford Motor Vice Chair Says
Ford Motor Vice Chair Allan Gilmour on Monday indicated that high health care costs could prompt automakers to "invest overseas rather than the United States" to remain profitable, the Detroit News reports. At the summer meeting of the National Governors Association in Seattle, Gilmour said that states must pass legislation to help control U.S. health care costs, which increased 7% annually over the past five years to $1.67 trillion in 2003. According to the News, Ford last year spent $3.2 billion on health care, which added about $1,000 to the cost of each Ford car and truck manufactured in the United States, compared with $700 in 2001. "Our foreign competitors don't share these problems," Gilmour said, adding, "These health care challenges have created a competitive gap that, if unchecked, will drive investment decisions away from the United States." Gilmour said that Ford supports the use of electronic medical record systems and other technologies to help health care providers reduce costs. In addition, Gilmour said that Ford will work to educate management and consumers about health care costs. Gilmour told the governors, "We, as employers, need your leadership -- perhaps including the establishment of a broad-based coalition -- to find a solution for the long term. Not a quick fix for the present" (Mayne, Detroit News, 7/20).
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.), who also spoke at the NGA meeting, recommended a free-market health care system based on consumer education and responsibility, as well as information technology, to address the issue of high health care costs. Leon Panetta, White House chief of staff under former President Clinton, recommended comprehensive health care reforms to address the issue of the uninsured and the medical needs of patients with chronic conditions such as heart disease and diabetes. In addition, Orin Smith, president and CEO of Starbucks, told the governors that increased health care costs could prompt the company to drop health coverage for some employees. He added that all U.S. residents should have access to basic health care and that companies should educate employees about health care costs (Song, Seattle Times, 7/20).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.