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Weighing In On Employer-Based US Health Care System

Ruzanna Harutyunyan's picture

A recent column and opinion piece examine the role of employer-sponsored health insurance.

* David Lazarus, Los Angeles Times: While it is "clear that change is coming to the U.S. health care system, ... doing away with the employer-based insurance system ... seems to be off the table," Times columnist Lazarus writes. According to Lazarus, employer-sponsored health insurance "by and large fails to serve the interests of both the American people and U.S. businesses." It "has become increasingly unsustainable for businesses and has resulted in 47 million Americans going without coverage."

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However, many U.S. businesses are not calling for "radical change" in health care, Lazarus writes, adding, "The employer-based system isn't our only choice, and we should be open to alternatives." Lazarus concludes, "The conversation needs to begin with what's in the best interests of the American people and the best interests of U.S. businesses. ... If we're honest with ourselves, I think we'll see that reform can mean healthy change, not just more of the same" (Lazarus, Los Angeles Times, 12/10).

* Ezekiel Emanuel/Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Wall Street Journal: U.S. workers need some of the benefits of the employer-based health insurance system, but for "too many, the employer-based system is inefficient," Wyden and Emanuel, an oncologist and chair of the department of bioethics at NIH, write in a Journal opinion piece. According to the authors, the employer-based system offers workers "the security of being part of a large group, of not being denied coverage because of age and pre-existing conditions and the convenience of having experts screen qualified plans and manage enrollment."

Workers also need to be able to take their insurance with them if they switch jobs or experience other life changes, they write. The authors suggest, "Such a system could be implemented today by creating state or regional insurance exchanges that pool individuals and small groups." The authors conclude, "[W]hat Americans and the president-elect need to ask is whether the [employer-based] health care system that was founded in the 1940s is the best health care system for the 21st century. We believe that Americans deserve better" (Emanuel/Wyden, Wall Street Journal, 12/10).

Reprinted with permission from kaisernetwork.org. You can view the entire Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report, search the archives, and sign up for email delivery at kaisernetwork.org/email . The Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report is published for kaisernetwork.org, a free service of The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. © 2007 Advisory Board Company and Kaiser Family Foundation. All rights reserved.