The Time Is Now; We Must Reform Health Care

Article excerpt

Byline: John Castellani, SPECIAL TO THE WASHINGTON TIMES

After hearing the most recent Census data on uninsured Americans, it would be easy to believe that the employer-based health care system is headed for the scrap heap of history. The new numbers add fuel to a fire that's already raging: the push for universal public health care. At least one Democratic presidential candidate is pushing for a government takeover of the system. There has even been speculation that corporations themselves want the government to take over so they can pass off their obligations to taxpayers, cut costs and boost profits.

A closer look, however, shows that, as Mark Twain might have said, reports of the death of the employer-based health-care system have been greatly exaggerated. To be sure, Business Roundtable, an association of the nation's top CEOs, has joined with other groups - including "strange bedfellows" such as AARP and SEIU - to urge our political leaders to reform the health-care system. But we also believe strongly in the existing model of companies providing these benefits to their employees.

Our companies now provide health-care coverage for more than 35 million Americans. We want to continue to provide this benefit, both because it's the right thing to do and because it promotes prosperity. By offering high-quality health-care plans, businesses are able to recruit and retain good employees, and increase employee satisfaction and productivity.

At the same time, as the Census data underscores, the current system isn't working. Consumers and businesses alike are paying a lot of money into a system that is inefficient and does not provide a quality return on our investment. To fix it, we believe that our political leaders and consumers must work with us in moving toward change.

But efforts to expand health-care coverage will be moot if we don't concurrently work to make the system more efficient itself. One critical and long-overdue step toward this end is to bring the benefits of information technology and comparison shopping to the purchase and delivery of health care. It's astounding that we can access bank account information and cash by using a single card anywhere in the country, but if we are rushed to the emergency room there's no way for doctors and nurses to easily view our health records. …