Both Presidential Candidates' Proposals Hit Hard in New Survey

September 16, 2008 ( - Executives at U.S. corporations responsible for workplace health plans say they have looked at health reform proposals from both presidential candidates and don't care for either one.

A news release from law firm Miller & Chevalier and the American Benefits Council trade group-co-sponsors of a survey that reached 187 respondents-said the two candidates’ proposals would end up hurting employers’ ability to keep providing workplace coverage.

Republican presidential hopeful, John McCain, has proposed to repeal the tax exclusion for employer-provided health coverage prompting 74% of respondents to say the idea would be a substantial danger for employer-sponsored health coverage. His Democratic counterpart, Barack Obama, has called for compelling employers to “pay or play,”-a notion 46% of respondents said would likewise hurt workplace health coverage.

The corporate benefits executives urged McCain, Obama, and Congressional candidates to pay more attention to issues that affect the cost of health coverage and the quality of health services.

“Employers face a constant struggle to provide quality health care options for their employees as costs continue to skyrocket. Survey respondents indicated over and over that cost is the biggest health care burden to their companies,” said Miller & Chevalier attorney Susan Relland. “While they appreciate the attention that has been paid to health care coverage, employers told us they hope that the coming months will bring useful debate on health care cost and quality issues.”

According to the news release, 92% of respondents said their companies have adopted wellness or chronic care programs. Other programs and policies in wide use include: offering a consumer-directed health plan with a health savings account or health reimbursement arrangement, requesting public reporting of provider quality, and participating in regional or national public-private collaboratives to establish and support uniform standards for measuring and reporting cost or quality information.

The survey results also confirm that nearly unanimously, business leaders believe maintaining the federal preemption framework of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA), is "vital" to continuing employer-sponsored coverage.

Regardless of their company's size, geography, industry or even the respondent's own political affiliation, respondents overwhelmingly support maintaining ERISA standards and oppose individual regulation at the state level.

"ERISA waivers for state initiatives would create disparities in the health plans offered within a single company's workforce and could interfere with employer strategies to promote wellness initiatives,"said James A. Klein, president of the American Benefits Council, in the news release. "Health reform efforts must build on the established federal framework that preserves uniformity in plan design and administration. Benefits executives see the efforts to grant states more authority as a direct threat to employers' ability to continue offering health coverage."

Although the presidential candidates have spent a considerable amount of time focusing on health care coverage issues, respondents say that they would like to see more focus on cost (58%) and quality (74%) issues.

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