US Health System Should Not Rely On Employer-Sponsored Coverage

Armen Hareyan's picture
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In thecurrent U.S. employmentmarket, "where most individuals change employers many times over alifetime," the "reliance on employers" to provide health carecoverage "makes little sense economically," Peter Beilenson --founder of Maryland'sHealth Care for All initiative and health officer forHoward County, Md. -- writes in a Baltimore Sunopinion piece. He states that employer-sponsored coverage is the "mostproblematic aspect of our current health care system."

According to Beilenson, employer-based coverage does not encourage companies tocover preventive care because it is likely employees will leave before thecompany will reap the benefits. In addition, he adds that the cost of healthcare coverage has risen "at far greater rates" than other sectors ofthe economy, which puts "greater and greater strain" on businesses, particularlysmall businesses. Beilenson continues that recent court decisions also willforce businesses that offer health coverage to "change their practices toadequately cover the costs of retiree benefits as well."

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Beilenson writes that the "biggest obstacle to eliminating reliance onemployer-based coverage is not economical but political" because employers"tend to be more fearful of a new system than they are worried about thecosts and headaches associated with the status quo." He adds,"Unfortunately, all of the major presidential candidates' [health care]proposals depend, in one form or another, on continuing" theemployer-based coverage system.

Beilenson writes that a government-run, single-payer health system,"rather than many thousands of payers," is "[m]oresensible" and could be funded "through a corporate and individualtax." He notes that some businesses "are starting to see thelight" and advocating for universal health coverage because "they arespending up to 20% of their payrolls on health care, instead of investing thoseresources in product development or new processes."

He concludes that it is "in the best interest of American business todecouple the provision of health insurance from the workplace" so that"they will free themselves of unnecessary burdens, create a fairer playingfield and become more competitive globally" (Beilenson, Baltimore Sun,3/28).

Reprintedwith permission from kaisernetwork.org. You can view the entire Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report, search the archives, and sign upfor email delivery at kaisernetwork.org/email . The Kaiser Daily Health PolicyReport is published for kaisernetwork.org, a free service of The Henry J.Kaiser Family Foundation.

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