In this issue

Jonathan Tobin: Defending the Right to a Jewish State

Heather Hale: Compliment your kids without giving them big heads

Megan Shauri: 10 ways you are ruining your own happiness

Carolyn Bigda: 8 Best Dividend Stocks for 2015

Kiplinger's Personal Finance editors: 7 Things You Didn't Know About Paying Off Student Loans

Samantha Olson: The Crucial Mistake 55% Of Parents Are Making At Their Baby's Bedtime

Densie Well, Ph.D., R.D. Open your eyes to yellow vegetables

The Kosher Gourmet by Megan Gordon With its colorful cache of purples and oranges and reds, COLLARD GREEN SLAW is a marvelous mood booster --- not to mention just downright delish
April 18, 2014

Rabbi Yonason Goldson: Clarifying one of the greatest philosophical conundrums in theology

Caroline B. Glick: The disappearance of US will

Megan Wallgren: 10 things I've learned from my teenagers

Lizette Borreli: Green Tea Boosts Brain Power, May Help Treat Dementia

John Ericson: Trying hard to be 'positive' but never succeeding? Blame Your Brain

The Kosher Gourmet by Julie Rothman Almondy, flourless torta del re (Italian king's cake), has royal roots, is simple to make, . . . but devour it because it's simply delicious

April 14, 2014

Rabbi Dr Naftali Brawer: Passover frees us from the tyranny of time

Greg Crosby: Passing Over Religion

Eric Schulzke: First degree: How America really recovered from a murder epidemic

Georgia Lee: When love is not enough: Teaching your kids about the realities of adult relationships

Cameron Huddleston: Freebies for Your Lawn and Garden

Gordon Pape: How you can tell if your financial adviser is setting you up for potential ruin

Dana Dovey: Up to 500,000 people die each year from hepatitis C-related liver disease. New Treatment Has Over 90% Success Rate

Justin Caba: Eating Watermelon Can Help Control High Blood Pressure

The Kosher Gourmet by Joshua E. London and Lou Marmon Don't dare pass over these Pesach picks for Manischewitz!

April 11, 2014

Rabbi Hillel Goldberg: Silence is much more than golden

Caroline B. Glick: Forgetting freedom at Passover

Susan Swann: How to value a child for who he is, not just what he does

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Financial Tasks You Should Tackle Right Now

Sandra Block and Lisa Gerstner: How to Profit From Your Passion

Susan Scutti: A Simple Blood Test Might Soon Diagnose Cancer

Chris Weller: Have A Slow Metabolism? Let Science Speed It Up For You

The Kosher Gourmet by Diane Rossen Worthington Whitefish Terrine: A French take on gefilte fish

April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review June 17, 2005 / 10 Sivan, 5765

GM's healthcare dilemma

By Jeff Jacoby

Jeff Jacoby
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http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | Is General Motors an automobile manufacturer that provides healthcare benefits for its workers? Or is it a health insurance provider that also happens to make cars?

The question is facetious, but there's nothing funny about GM's predicament. At the company's annual meeting in Detroit last week, CEO Rick Wagoner told shareholders that health benefits add a staggering $1,500 to the price of every vehicle GM makes. GM will spend more than $5.6 billion this year on health coverage for 1.1 million people — a population greater than Rhode Island's. Yet of that number, only 160,000 or so are current employees: The majority are retirees and their families. And with GM planning to shed 25,000 jobs through attrition over the next three years, its already lopsided ratio of 2.6 retirees per active employee is only going to get worse.

The health benefits GM provides are generous to the point of recklessness. While its salaried employees pay 27 percent of their healthcare costs, the nearly 120,000 workers who belong to the United Auto Workers pay a minuscule 7 percent. They have no deductibles, no monthly premiums — only modest co-pays for doctor's visits and prescriptions. Benefits that lavish might have been tolerable back when GM was king of the automotive hill and could count on selling enough cars to defray such a huge expense. But GM today sells only about one-fourth of the cars bought in America — down from nearly half in the 1950s.

All of which helps explain why GM lost $1.3 billion in the first quarter of this year. At the annual meeting, Wagoner warned that the exploding cost of healthcare benefits is ''perhaps the most challenging element" of GM's looming financial crisis. Is it ever.

Of course, GM has other problems, too. Union rules block it from shutting down underused plants. It takes 34 hours to build a GM vehicle, while Toyota can build a car in 28. Sales of high-profit SUVs and pickups have been depressed by rising gas prices. And, as critic after critic has complained, GM's array of brands is too large and indistinct. How many non-car buffs can distinguish a Buick from a Pontiac?

''One has to wonder," writes auto industry analyst Maryann Keller, ''why it has been so hard for GM to figure out what car buyers want and then give it to them."

Surely part of the reason is all those billions GM is spending on first-dollar health coverage for its legion of retirees. When $1,500 per vehicle is earmarked for Lipitor and knee replacements, that's $1,500 not being spent designing cars that drivers will fall in love with. Wagoner indicated last week that he intends to force down healthcare costs whether the union likes it or not — ''our strongly preferred approach is to do this in cooperation with the UAW," he said, implying that other approaches are available if necessary. Indeed, The New York Times reported Wednesday that GM has given the UAW until the end of June to agree to healthcare concessions or face unilateral action by management.

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GM's hourly workers undoubtedly have a sweet deal — who wouldn't love health insurance that comes with a $0 deductible and no premiums? But such sweet deals drive up the cost of healthcare for everyone. When somebody else is picking up the tab, there is little incentive to economize. The price of prescription drugs, hospital stays, and medical procedures has skyrocketed in part because tens of millions of Americans are insured through their employers with low-deductible medical plans.

Why not run to the doctor for every minor ailment when the out-of-pocket cost is minimal? Why inquire whether a procedure can be performed less expensively when it'll be covered by insurance either way?

In no other area do we rely on insurance for routine expenses or repairs. Auto insurance doesn't cover oil changes; no one uses homeowner's insurance to repoint the chimney. That's because most of us pay for those policies ourselves, and therefore get only the insurance we really need — generally against catastrophic events, like a car being stolen or a house burning down.

Only when it comes to healthcare do we expect insurance to cover nearly everything. The problem may be especially acute at GM, but most of us have gotten used to having a faceless third party pick up the lion's share of our medical tab. GM's board of trustees can play hardball with the union. But ultimately this isn't a problem that a single company can fix. So long as Americans don't expect to pay for their healthcare themselves, what's no good for General Motors won't be good for America, either.

Every weekday JewishWorldReview.com publishes what many in in the media and Washington consider "must-reading". Sign up for the daily JWR update. It's free. Just click here.

Jeff Jacoby is a Boston Globe columnist. Comment by clicking here.

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