The Financial Times reports that US auto industry executives and advisers to Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry have met to discuss Detroit's growing interest in healthcare proposals that could subsidise rising medical costs.
 
The report says that both GM and Ford are understood to have held private talks in the hope of tackling a problem that they believe threatens the long-term competitiveness of the US auto industry.

US carmakers have complained about rising healthcare costs, but are reportedly reluctant to endorse publicly the solutions proposed by either presidential candidate.
 
Nevertheless, the FT says, proposals put forward by Mr Kerry for government to pay three-quarters of patient costs above $30,000 are attracting significant private support, according to sources close to the campaign and the industry.

The car companies are also attracted by plans to reduce the numbers of uninsured believing the cost of treating such patients is merely passed on by hospitals and causes higher premiums for those who do pay insurance.

American companies have generally leaned towards more market-based solutions to the healthcare problem, such as encouraging competition among hospitals and greater patient responsibility, the report said.

The FT report says that Detroit is keen on market solutions but is also concerned about competition from rivals based in countries with more efficient healthcare systems.

A Bush-Cheney campaign official reportedly said, according to the FT: "I could imagine there are some companies that find the idea of shifting their healthcare costs onto the federal government an attractive proposition."

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