Employer-Based Health Insurance System 'Collapsing'

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Health Insurance Coverage From Employer

"The employer-based system of health coverage is over" in the U.S., Andy Stern, president of the Service Employees International Union, writes in a Wall Street Journal opinion piece. Stern writes that the "system is collapsing, crushed by out-of-control costs, a revolutionary global economy and masses of uninsured," adding that the problems with the system force companies to shift more of the cost of health insurance to employees or drop coverage.

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"In the last five years alone, the percentage of businesses offering health benefits has plummeted to 60% from 69%," and McKinsey "projects that by 2008, the average Fortune 500 company will spend as much on health care as they make in profit," Stern writes.

According to Stern, U.S. residents "have to accept that we're living through the most profound transformative economic revolution in the history of the world" and are "rapidly moving from employer-managed work lives to self-managed work lives, in which workers must figure out on their own how to maintain things like health insurance and retirement."

Stern writes, "There seems to be broad consensus that we need a universal system that provides affordable coverage, choice of doctors and insurance plans, core benefits, and shared financing among employers, employees and government," adding, "The problem isn't policy, it's leadership." Lawmakers "are not going to provide the answers until they are forced to," Stern writes, adding, "That force must come from the business community" (Stern, Wall Street Journal, 7/17).