…interest in more government health care is spreading from automakers to other manufacturers. In December, a study released by two business establishment trade groups, the Manufacturers Alliance and the National Association of Manufacturers, found that when it came to structural costs—environmental compliance, taxes, and employee benefits—American companies pay more compared to many foreign competitors. Structural costs add 22.4 percent to the price of doing business in the United States—more than in Canada, Britain, or South Korea. The largest single structural cost borne by the American private sector is health care. The clear implication: Unless society (read: the government) does something to relieve manufacturers of their health-care burden, the sector will suffer further.Single-payer health care probably wouldn’t ‘save’ American manufacturing, but it certainly makes sense for the Democrats to advance a healthy care plan by hyping its business-friendly aspects.
The health-reform meme is now colonizing another group of Fortune 500 companies—major hospital chains. This week, HCA, the nation's largest hospital company, unexpectedly lowered earnings estimates for the year by about 10 percent. The main reason: It had to set aside extra cash to deal with swelling numbers of uninsured patients who can't pay their bills. In the first quarter, HCA had to set aside 11.7 percent of its revenues of $5.9 billion for bad debts, up from 8.1 percent the year before. (Here's the report.)