Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Employers - Health Care: The U.S. Employers Perspective

U.S. health care differs from other countries largely because in the U,S. employers foot much of the bill while abroad government take most of the hit. This has its good – universal coverage, protecting individuals against insolvency, less of the GDP devoted to health care - and bad points – high taxes, stringent financial controls, and less access to high technologies.

I shall not dwell on these differences here.

Instead I shall do two things;

1) Point out the global economy, which will not go away no matter how much we legislate, is changing everything. As an American CEO has said, “We no longer view ourselves as an American company; we act as a global company in all our decision making.” And as another CEO noted, “Less than half of our workforce is in the United States – but 95 percent of our costs are.”

2) Bring your attention to a remarkable 7 page advertising section in the April 22 WSJ, “Benefit Trend: Change Is Now Constant,” produced by the Employee Benefits Institute in collaboration with Employer Benefits, Inc., laying out in detail and with frankness the U.S, employers’ position on health care..

The ad section says, among other things, that

• employers plan to continue to offer health benefits because benefits are an effective tool for recruiting and retaining valuable employees;

• employers and employees alike want employers to continue to offer benefits and prefer the employer model over a government takeover model;

• investing in programs to keep employees healthy and working beats paying them when they’re out and sick;

• employers will continue to shrink benefits for active employees and retirees and to shift cost risk to current and past employees to defray relentlessly rising health costs;.

• cost differences between U.S. health care and other countries stem largely from the desire of Americans for access to high technologies and for individual freedom and choice over community benefits;

• national health systems reduce the health cost obligations of businesses;

• the jury is still out on consumer driven care, now used by 7.5 million Americans, 7% of the market Whether this type of care will reduce costs and satisfy employees, remains in doubt, but employers are willing to give it a try, hope it will grow, and predict it will not go away.

• employers are still not at the “tipping point, “ that point at which they will decide to jettison employer-based care for a government system; not yet, but they are beginning to think seriously about it;

• employers still want government as a partner to set quality standards, to help cover the uninsured, and to continue to serve as a safety nte.

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