Health Care Costs Put U.S. at Significant Disadvantage Compared with Global Competitors
According to the Business Roundtable Health Care Value IndexTM, a new measure of the “value” (cost and performance) of the U.S. health care system relative to our competitors’ systems on a 100-point scale, the United States faces at a 23-point “value gap” relative to five leading economic competitors – Canada, Japan, Germany, the United Kingdom and France (the “G-5 Group”) – and a 46-point “value gap” compared to emerging competitors Brazil, India and China (“the BIC group”).
What does this “value gap“ mean for our ability to compete in the international marketplace?
Health Care Value and Global Competitiveness
In many important respects, the American health care system is among the best in the world. When it comes to scientific advances, medical technology and the quality of our doctors and medical institutions, the United States is without peer. But this country’s health care system is becoming increasingly expensive and burdensome to businesses and families – costs that, without some restructuring of the system, will put the benefits of this amazing medical expertise beyond the reach of an increasing number of Americans.
As a group, employers and workers in G-5 countries spend 63 cents for every dollar we spend on health care. The gap is even wider when we look at the BIC group; they spend just 15 cents for every dollar that we spend on health care.
Unfortunately, these spiraling costs may be jeopardizing more than just care.
Faced with a deepening economic crisis, it’s never been harder for U.S. companies to compete in the global marketplace. While today’s economic challenges span the globe, companies in other countries may be able to better weather the storm, in part because they get a better “value” on health care – they spend less on health care and their system keeps their workforces healthier than America’s.
"When it comes to scientific advances, medical technology and the quality of our doctors and hospitals, the American system is robust. But health care is beyond the reach of an increasing number of Americans. From our perspective, the problem with the U.S. health care market is that it doesn’t really function as a market – it leaves major consumer needs unmet, costs unchecked by competition and basic practices untouched by the productivity revolution that has transformed every other sector of the economy." - Ivan Seidenberg, Chairman and CEO, Verizon Communications
As the Business Roundtable Health Care Value Index shows, our relatively higher spending and lower return on investment creates a health care “value gap” that places U.S. companies at a significant global competitive disadvantage:
- Higher health care spending in the United States diverts resources from investment in new products, equipment, facilities and jobs needed to keep America competitive in the global marketplace.
- The higher spending that should lead to a healthier workforce, strengthening our ability to produce and innovate, currently does not.
Our health care system is actually harming our ability to compete effectively in the global economy.
Understanding the Problem So We Can Engineer a Solution
The Business Roundtable has a plan that, we believe, will put us on the path to a competitive health care system. But before we can implement a successful plan, we must fully understand the scope of the problem.
Until now, there has been no systematic and ongoing method for measuring the impact of our health care spending – and our return on that investment – on U.S. global economic competitiveness. To fill this void, the members of Business Roundtable commissioned the global health consultancy Mercer and a national expert advisory panel of health economists, researchers and clinicians to develop the Business Roundtable Health Care Value Index: a measure of the “value” (cost and performance) of the U.S. health care system relative to our competitors’ systems, and the resulting impact on U.S. global economic competitiveness
This first Business Roundtable Health Care Value Index provides an initial “snapshot” based on data collected for 2004, 2005 and 2006, the most recent period for which data was available. Future issues of the Index will identify competitiveness improvements or declines.
"What’s important is that we measure and compare actual value — not just how much we spend on health care, but the performance we get back in return. That’s what this Index does, and the results are quite eye-opening." - Ed Hanway, Chairman and CEO, CIGNA Corporation
Top-Line Findings: A Substantial Health Care Value Gap
On a 100-point scale, U.S. business faces a 23-point health care “value gap” relative to five leading industrialized competitors – and a 46-point “value gap” against three rising economic powers.
- Combining 19 internationally reported measures in a weighted 100-point scale that takes both the spending on, and performance of, our health care system into account, the U.S. stands at a 23-point disadvantage relative to five leading economic competitors – Canada, Japan, Germany, the United Kingdom and France (the “G-5 group”) – and a 46-point disadvantage relative to the emerging competitors of Brazil, India and China (the “BIC group”).
SPENDING: We spend significantly more…
- As chart 1 shows, as a group, employers and workers in G-5 countries spend 63 cents for every dollar we spend on health care. The gap is even wider when we look at the BIC group; they spend just 15 cents for every dollar that we spend on health care.
"And today, there are those who say we should defer health care reform once again – that at a time of economic crisis, we simply cannot afford to fix our health care system as well. Well, let’s be clear: the same soaring costs that are straining our families’ budgets are sinking our businesses and eating up our government’s budget too. Too many small businesses can’t insure their employees. Major American corporations are struggling to compete with their foreign counterparts." - President Barack Obama, December 11, 2008 White House Forum on Health Reform, March 5, 2009
PERFORMANCE: Yet we have less to show for it…
- Despite spending more, the U.S. workforce lags behind both the G-5 countries (by ~10 percent) and the BIC countries (by ~5 percent) on measurable workforce health and care quality.
Taken together, America’s health cost and performance shortfall creates a competitive advantage for other countries’ employers and workers.
- America’s combined health and performance scores show our total health value. When measured against our competitors’ health value scores, we trail significantly. If global economic competition were a 100-meter race, the G-5 group would have a 23-meter “head start,” and the BIC group would have a 46-meter head start on U.S. employers and workers (see chart 2).
- The health care “value gap” between America and the G-5 countries widened slightly during 2004–2006, the last three years over which international measures have been reported.
"Our economy cannot fully recover if our companies cannot compete well internationally. Our products and services lead the world when it comes to quality. But lower health care value means we can’t be cost-competitive, which tilts the playing field against us." - Ronald Williams, Chairman and CEO, Aetna Inc.
The Business Roundtable Health Care Value Index compares the United States with two distinct sets of country competitors:
- The “G-5 Group” of five longstanding industrialized trading partners – Canada, Japan, Germany, the United Kingdom and France; and
- The “BIC Group” of three large, rapidly developing countries: Brazil, India and China.
The Business Roundtable Health Care Value Index incorporates a total of 19 measures of health care spending and health performance measures:
- Two spending measures consisting of: (1) employer-paid health benefits per hour in manufacturing (the U.S. industry most exposed to exports); and (2) a broader measure of GDP-adjusted per capita health care spending, which also encompasses government health care spending financed through taxes paid by employers and employees.
- 17 national performance measures of health and health care quality particularly relevant to employers. Each of these measures was weighted by an expert clinician-researcher team, based on its contribution to worker productivity and the degree to which the health care system can affect the measure. (Due to limitations in internationally reported data, only nine of the 17 measures are available for the BIC group.)
The Health Care Value Index
All 19 measures are then factored into a 100-point aggregate scale with spending and performance weighted equally – the Business Roundtable Health Care Value Index. Using this Index, U.S. health care “value” can be compared with that of its G-5 and BIC group competitors.
An In-Depth Look: Spending Measures
Both spending measures – employer-paid health benefits per hour and GDP-adjusted per capita health care spending – indicate that the U.S. is spending more than its competitors:
- As chart 3 shows, in 2006, U.S. employers paid $0.73 per hour more for health benefits compared with the G-5 group – a disparity that has grown by nearly 50 percent since 2004. (Not all data for this category is available for BIC group countries.)
- As chart 4 indicates, in 2006 the United States – including employers, employees, retirees and the government – spent far more on health care per capita than did either group of competitors: $828 more per capita than G-5 countries and $1,654 more per capita than BIC countries. Both gaps have expanded significantly since 2004.
An In-Depth Look: Workforce Health Measures
Despite spending much more on health care than either group of competitors, the U.S. lags when it comes to the workforce health component of the Index, which includes both workforce health and care quality measures. However, there are significant variations across workforce health measures. On some measures, the United States leads its competitors. On others – notably obesity rates – we trail.
On the whole, our workforce is not as healthy as that in either the G-5 or the BIC countries, compounding the competitive disadvantage created by our high spending. The good news is that this workforce health gap shrank slightly between 2004–2006 (the period measured).
Looking Toward the Future
Now that the Business Roundtable Health Care Value Index baseline has been established, tracking annual changes between the United States and the G-5 and BIC groups will clearly indicate whether U.S. competitiveness is rising or falling due to changes in the cost and performance of our health care system.
The Index provides valuable insights for anyone who is concerned with reforming our health care system in order to deliver the best value – performance relative to spending – of any in the world. Ultimately, that’s every one of us who receives care, pays a medical bill, pays taxes or provides care to others.
When our health care system fails to deliver value, it does not just affect individual companies and their workers; it harms our nation’s ability to compete in the global economy by raising the cost of our products and services and diverting resources from needed investments. To improve U.S. competitiveness, we must make fundamental changes in our health care system to get more value.
As leaders of companies that provide health care coverage to nearly 35 million Americans, Business Roundtable members are committed to playing a constructive role in the health care reform process – by encouraging high value care as purchasers and by making strong policy recommendations. Business Roundtable has proposed policy reforms that will make our health care system more efficient and transparent, deliver greater value to consumers and provide more marketplace options for employers and individuals to obtain coverage. Our proposal builds upon the employer-based health insurance system and seeks to improve quality of care while expanding access for all Americans.
Business Roundtable’s Health Care Reform Plan
Health care delivery needs a new business model: one that puts customers in the center and uses the power of the market to lower costs, improve quality, create more consumer choice and expand accessibility.
Business Roundtable has a four-pillar plan that, we believe, will put us on the path to a competitive health care system:
- Creating greater consumer value in the health care marketplace by using health information technology and empowering consumers with more information about good quality health care.
- Providing more affordable health insurance options for all Americans by creating an open, all-inclusive private market for health insurance and replacing today’s fragmented state-by-state market with multistate markets. To ensure that insurance plans are solvent and meet certain minimum requirements, the role of individual states as the primary regulator should continue. Broader, more competitive markets will create more choices for more health care consumers.
- Engaging all Americans in taking an active role in their health care. First, this means placing an obligation on all Americans to obtain health insurance either through their employer or the private market. Second, we must encourage all Americans to participate in employer- or community-based prevention, wellness and chronic care programs.
- Offering health coverage and assistance to low-income, uninsured Americans that create a stable and secure public safety net. This assistance would be financed from the cost savings and efficiencies generated by a more competitive and value-driven health care system.
Today, our health care system leaves major consumer needs unmet, costs unchecked and basic practices untouched by the productivity revolution that has transformed every other sector of our economy. The Business Roundtable Health Care Value Index should add to the urgency felt by all major U.S. stakeholders to stimulate faster improvement in the performance of America’s health care system. We can do better. The global competitiveness of U.S. employers and workers depends on it.
"When we spend more to get less, we all lose – workers, employers and the government. For America to succeed in today’s international economy, we must address the issue of health care value." - Ivan Seidenberg, Chairman and CEO, Verizon Communications