Healthcare Reform Vital, U.S. Health Agency says

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Reform of the U.S. healthcare system is vital this year because of growing costs and worsening care, the Health and Human Services Department said in a report on Monday.

The HHS report, published at, compiles findings of dozens of studies that have been used to justify calls for a complete overhaul of the healthcare system.

While the need for change is not controversial, conservatives and liberals differ on how that should be approached. President Barack Obama has said he wants legislation this year but is leaving the details up to Congress to work out.

“Today’s report outlines the high cost of waiting to fix a system that has left too many Americans without the affordable, quality care they deserve,” HHS spokeswoman Jenny Backus said in a statement.

The report points out that the United States spent $2.2 trillion on healthcare in 2007, or $7,421 per capita. Healthcare accounts for more than 16 percent of gross domestic product, nearly twice the average of other developed nations.

Healthcare costs doubled from 1996 to 2006, and are projected to rise to 25 percent of GDP in 2025; 49 percent by 2082 if something does not change.

“Employer-sponsored health insurance premiums have more than doubled in the last nine years,” the report reads. “As a result of these crushing health care costs, American businesses are losing their ability to compete in the global marketplace.”

More than 160 million Americans get health insurance through employers. “Health care at General Motors puts the company at a $5 billion disadvantage against Toyota, which spends $1,400 less on health care per vehicle,” the report added — quoting former General Motors Corp’s chief executive officer Rick Wagoner.

“In spite of the vast resources invested, the health care system has not yet reached the goal of high-quality care,” the report said.

“Across 37 performance indicators, the United States achieved an overall score of 65 out of a possible 100,” it said, citing the non-profit Commonwealth Foundation. The Obama administration has relied heavily on such reports in setting its healthcare strategy.

(Reporting by Maggie Fox, editing by Vick Allen)

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