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Changing health care

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Posted: Friday, January 27, 2006 5:26 am | Updated: 4:40 pm, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

A growing number of Americans are finding themselves cut off from the nation’s health care system, so the need to change that system has never been more critical, according to Dr. Jerome Grossman, director of the Health Care Delivery Policy Program in the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.

Grossman was the keynote speaker during Thursday’s segment of an ongoing lecture series on transforming the health care system by the School of Health Management and Policy in the W.P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University.

In his speech titled “Reaching the Tipping Point in Health Care Delivery,” he said the problem resembles a rubber band that’s about to snap.

During an interview after his speech, Grossman outlined in more detail how the crisis is hurting consumers.

“As labor becomes less of a lifetime job with lifetime benefits, consumers will have to become concerned that they won’t be able to get health insurance at a price they can afford,” he said. “Eight percent of small businesses have stopped offering health care insurance to their employees, and we fear that number just keeps going up. And then big companies are raising co-pays and deductibles to their employees, who start being unable to afford the co-pays.”

In the last five years, the cost of health care delivery, even if covered by an employer, has increased 70 percent, Grossman said. “So the danger is lack of access and lack of affordability,” he said. “Consumers have to be concerned that they may not have the ability to get health insurance.”

There’s a standoff between those who want “universal entitlement” to health care, as in Canada and Britain, and those who want a marketbased system, Grossman said. He believes a combination of the two would be the best solution. The health care delivery system needs to operate more as a market-based industry, while the federal government should establish a basic health insurance program to ensure that this shift doesn’t hurt consumers, he said.

“Market-based industries seem to do better at being more productive,” Grossman said. “They’re more efficient and they’re more innovative, and they produce things that customers like, like cell phones and flat-screen TVs, or inexpensive cars, or online banking or commerce.”

He said federal health programs for the poor such as Medicaid do not provide sufficient coverage for even basic health needs. A program is needed in which every person is means-tested to make sure that everyone gets basic health insurance, he said.

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