Employers to Lawmakers: Focus on Health Care Cost, Service Quality

June 17, 2009 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - A survey of benefits professionals showed concern that health care reform proposals may do more harm than good.

A news release fromMiller & Chevalier Chartered and the American Benefits Council (ABC) about their second annual Corporate Health Care Policy Forecast Survey said respondents contended lawmakers are not paying enough attention to service quality and costs in formulating policy changes.Fifty-one percent of respondents said they would like to see more focus on cost and 72% would like more focus on quality issues, the press release said.

Also, w ith the taxation of employer-sponsored health benefits on the table (see Obama Reported Ready to Back Health Coverage Taxes ), respondents assert that altering the tax exclusion will affect employer-sponsorship of plans – 82% want to maintain the current exclusion.

“Democrats, Republicans and Independents, alike, want to reform the health system but are worried about the impact on their employees of proposals to tax health benefits, about mandates on employers that will raise costs, and about a government-run plan that would shift costs to private employers and to families covered by employer plans,” said James A. Klein, president of the ABC.

The survey results also confirm that business leaders believe maintaining the federal framework of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) is important to the current system mostly relying on employer-sponsored coverage and that state-by-state regulation would be overly harmful.
Some 92% supported this sentiment.

In terms of cost savings, the poll found 92% of respondents saying 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; adopting high performance network strategies that encourage plan participants to use providers with the highest quality and the lowest cost; and requesting public reporting of provider quality.

Some survey highlights include:

  • Three-quarters of respondents say that their company would immediately reduce or cease altogether offering retiree health coverage if legislation were enacted that prevented employers from modifying retiree health care benefits in the future.
  • Respondents overwhelmingly point to improvements in health care quality, such as reporting of quality outcomes and wellness or chronic care programs, as the areas that could have the most positive impact on their workforce.
  • Employers understand that continuing to provide health care to their employees is very important. 89% of respondents think employees would prefer to receive health insurance through employers even if similarly priced options were available through other sources.

In May, Miller & Chevalier and the American Benefits Council distributed the survey via e-mail to corporate benefits executives at U.S.-based companies that range in size from fewer than 1,000 to more than 50,000 employees. The survey was completed by 213 respondents

More information is available at www.millerchevalier.com or www.americanbenefitscouncil.org .