Warren Buffett Calls for Health Care "Plan C" to Control Costs

Berkshire Hathaway Chairman and CEO Warren Buffett, the billionaire investor also known as the "Oracle of Omaha," says he would support the current Senate health care bill. But he says he would be prefer a "Plan C" which focuses more on controlling "out of control" health care costs.

Buffett, in a CNBC interview on Monday morning, compared rising U.S. health care costs to a "tapeworm eating at our economic body" that is "untenable over time."

"If it was a choice today between plan A, which is what we've got, or plan B… the Senate bill, I would vote for the Senate bill," Buffett said. "But I would much rather see a plan C that really attacks costs."

Buffett said that U.S. health care costs are close to 17 percent of overall Gross Domestic Product, which in other countries health costs are 10 percent of GDP or lower. He also noted that America has fewer doctors, nurses and hospital beds per capita than to much of the world.

"Everything we produce for export, everything we compete with that comes imported in this country, everything is bearing that cost, and it's a cost that the rest of the world isn't bearing," he added, citing auto executives who said there was $1,500 of health costs built into the price of U.S. cars.

Despite saying that he would support the Senate bill because he feels it is better than the status quo, it was clear he would prefer a new approach.

"Unfortunately, we came up with a bill that really doesn't attack the cost situation that much. And we have to have a fundamental change. We have to have something that will end the constant increase in medical costs as a percentage of GDP," he said. "If I were President Obama, I would just show this chart of what's been happening and say this is the tapeworm that's eating at American competitiveness. And I would say that one way or another, we're going to attack costs, costs, costs." (You can watch the interview at left or read the transcript here.)

As for how to control costs, Buffett pointed to changing the incentives within the health care system.

"We've got payment for procedures and not payment for results," he said.

Buffett said he thought the issue of reducing costs was more important than insuring more people, which is a key aim of Mr. Obama and Democrats in Congress.

"I believe in insuring more people. But I don't believe in insuring more people till you attack the cost aspect of this," he said.
Buffett also addressed the overall state of the economy in the interview which included questions from viewers. He said that while the economy is getting better, job growth will remain slow.

"It's getting better, but at a very, very slow rate," he said.

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