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As consumers, Americans shop around for everything from cars to clothes and computers, but Professor Reinhardt says we are powerless when it comes to buying healthcare.

"Suppose I took you to [a department store], blindfolded you, pushed you through the door and said, 'Find yourself a nice blouse that fits you and make sure the price is right.' That's roughly how we buy healthcare," he says. "If you go to the hospital, what do you know about the prices? What do you know you will get? Have you ever picked your own anesthesiologist?"

It's time to simplify things, Professor Reinhardt says. In addition to current plans, he says the government should mandate that every insurance company offer the same standard package. "[Then] there wouldn't be any question of what is covered or what isn't covered," he says.

To get healthcare coverage for every man, woman and child in the United States, Professor Reinhardt believes it would cost about $100 billion in additional government spending. That's the same amount the government spends in nine months to fund the war in Iraq, he says.

It seems like a lot of money...until you look at what Americans are spending billions on every year. According to our research, consumers spend $3 billion a year on custom ringtones for cell phones, $45 billion on lottery tickets, $94 billion on beer and $537 billion in restaurants.
FROM: Sick in America: It Can Happen to You
Published on January 01, 2006