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Arguments mount for a national healthcare system

Some reformers say a government-run system has become an 'economic necessity.'

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As advocates of healthcare reform see it, change in the United States healthcare system has become an economic necessity – not just socially desirable or politically popular.

"It has to happen," says Regina Herzlinger, an expert at the Harvard Business School in Cambridge, Mass. That's because the business community pays for 55 percent of the nation's total health costs, the government just 45 percent. And many businesses want to get rid of their health costs.

"Bringing costs under control is the only way to … allow our companies to effectively compete around the world," states Sen. John McCain, the leading Republican presidential candidate, on his website.

Those costs have exploded. Healthcare expenditures in the US rose 6.7 percent in 2006 to $2.1 trillion, or 16.1 percent of the nation's total output of goods and services, government economists reported last month. (Last week, the government predicted the nation's healthcare expenditures will reach $4 trillion by 2017.) Most other rich industrial nations, with universal care, spend only 11 to 12 percent of their gross domestic product on healthcare. Canada spends even less, a bit more than 9 percent of GDP, on a single-payer government insurance system for all its people.

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