Leavitt criticizes U.S. health system

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The U.S. healthcare system is fundamentally broken, according to Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt. Speaking at the John F. Kennedy Forum at Harvard University on Tuesday night, Leavitt advocated for a complete overhaul of the overly complex and inefficient current system.

In his talk, Leavitt said that transparency, simplification and an emphasis on prevention are prerequisites for a better system. He also said that he supports using a competitive market to ensure efficiency and standardized medical procedure prices that allow consumers to shop around. Competition would drive up quality while driving down prices, he said.

Today, healthcare is exempt from market pressure because so little information is known and available to the public, according to the Secretary. Leavitt predicted that before 2014, Americans will be able to search online for healthcare pricing and, along with electronic records, have a health equivalent of Travelocity, the website that offers competitive prices for airfare and hotels.

Leavitt warned that America's healthcare spending, if left unchecked, could erode the nation's standing as a global economic leader. He said no country can afford to spend one quarter of its gross domestic product on healthcare spending, which is where he predicts the country is headed within the next generation from its current 16 percent.

Leavitt also said he opposed expansion of the State Children’s Health Insurance Program, recently authorized by the House of Representatives. The program provides medical coverage to children in low income families. Although the Senate is likely to support the bill, President Bush has vowed to veto it.

He said he supports the current administration’s “Every American Insured” program, which seeks to ensure that the government provides insurance for the elderly and disabled and leave the rest of the population to the private sector.