Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Want jobs? Fix healthcare first

As much as I hate linking to the Detroit News, it looks like they are going to have a great series of stories this week on healthcare costs and how it relates to employment and the economy.

Today, they tackle what is going on at GM. Go read the whole thing. Here are some highlights- and the numbers are staggering.

The world's largest automaker is being driven deep into financial trouble not only by the cars of a competitor, but also by the medical bills of its own workers and retirees.

-Last year, GM spent $5.3 billion on health care -- enough to buy a GMC Yukon for each of its U.S. employees. By 2008, General Motors will likely spend more on health care in the United States than on its hourly-worker payroll.

-Every second of every day, GM pays for a medical procedure; every two seconds, it pays for a prescription. Last year it wrote checks to 500,000 doctors, 35,000 pharmacies, 5,000 hospitals, 120 HMOs and 80 insurance companies.

-One out of every 87 Americans over the age of 65 has their medical bills paid by GM, as does one out of every 279 Americans of all ages.

-So large is the program that someone has a GM health card in virtually every ZIP code in the United States. So costly is the program that the automaker's health care spending alone is more than the total revenue of 121 companies on the Fortune 500 list.

The News goes on to talk about the history of GM and how they arrived at where they are today. GM is a canary in a coalmine, so to speak, and what is happening there is happening all over America on a smaller scale.

If health care costs are driving one of the most powerful companies in the world deep into financial difficulty, how bad will the health care crisis be for the rest of us?

Why is job creation so difficult? Here is the answer- employers can't afford heath care.

Health care costs are crippling not just GM, but also businesses across the United States, the only country where health care is primarily paid by employers. In other industrialized nations, it is paid for by the government. Companies may pay a health care tax in other nations, but that cost is far lower than the insurance premiums most U.S. companies pay.

-Since 2000, premiums for employer-sponsored family health coverage have jumped 73 percent, while wages have gone up only 15 percent, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation survey.

-The average cost of annual premiums for family coverage is now $10,880 -- more than the $10,712 in gross earnings a full-time minimum wage worker would make in a year.

-The share of U.S. companies offering health insurance dropped 13 percent between 2000 and 2005. Citing increased costs, only 60 percent of U.S. companies now offer health insurance.

-Employers who continue to provide health insurance pay an average of 82 percent of the cost, according to a study by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. With insurance premiums for a family of four now averaging almost $900 a month, companies are bearing a huge expense that their foreign competitors do not.

And that's why they build Camaros in Canada. Nothing to do with the unions, everything to do with the healthcare costs.

Go read these stories, all the facts and figures you would ever want to know.

Granholm has a plan for healthcare, and let's pray she is re-elected so it gets off the ground.

This state, this country, must start moving in this direction if we are to be competitive on the global stage.

Or as DeVos said, you can "get another job". With only 60% of employers offering coverage, you might have to go through a few jobs first.

Just don't get sick on the way.