Bill Clinton: universal health coverage saves money

NEW YORK Wed Jun 8, 2011 3:36am IST

Former U.S. President Bill Clinton attends the 2011 Fiscal Summit on Solutions for America's future in Washington, May 25, 2011.   REUTERS/Jason Reed/Files

Former U.S. President Bill Clinton attends the 2011 Fiscal Summit on Solutions for America's future in Washington, May 25, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/Jason Reed/Files

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NEW YORK (Reuters) - Former U.S. President Bill Clinton said the United States could save more than $1 trillion a year by adopting any other advanced nation's healthcare system.

He also said there are important advances included in President Obama's healthcare reforms and urged that it be improved upon rather than repealed.

"Our healthcare system has gotten all out of whack," Clinton said in a speech on Tuesday at the Jefferies Global Healthcare Conference, stressing the need to bring inflation in healthcare costs back in line with economic inflation.

Clinton said Canada and the European countries that have universal health coverage for their citizens spend a smaller percentage of their gross domestic product on healthcare than the United States does.

"Germany and France, with what is considered the most effective systems in the world in terms of universal coverage and quality of treatment, they spend 10 percent. Canada spends 10.5 percent," Clinton said.

"The United States spends 17.2 percent without having universal coverage," Clinton said.

"That means if we just scrapped our system and adopted any other wealthy country's system, at a minimum we would have a trillion dollars more a year for pay raises, for investment in new technology, to create new jobs or whatever."

He said resistance to change, in addition to political maneuvering, is part of what is keeping the government Medicare program from any meaningful reforms.

"The beneficiaries in the present would rather hold onto the present than make sure they've done what's necessary to preserve it for the future, and that's part of the problem with Medicare," Clinton said.

He said Social Security, which many people fear could go bankrupt if changes are not adopted before the bulk of the giant baby generation retires, would eventually fix itself.

"Social Security is primarily just a demographics problem," Clinton said, noting that not enough people will be working to pay for all the members of his generation collecting Social Security payments.

"Although if the economy stays this anemic we'll all be working too and that's not all bad, you'll live longer if you do," he said.

"But when we all die off that will all be fixed," he quipped.

(Reporting by Bill Berkrot; Editing by Gary Hill)

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