Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Fwd: qotd: U.S. executives most concerned about health care costs

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-------- Original Message --------
Subject: qotd: U.S. executives most concerned about health care costs
Date: Tue, 23 Oct 2012 11:43:05 -0700
From: Don McCanne <don@mccanne.org>
To: Quote-of-the-Day <quote-of-the-day@mccanne.org>

October 22, 2012
Healthcare costs top U.S. executives' concerns: Adecco survey
By Nick Zieminski

U.S. corporate executives are more worried about providing healthcare
benefits to their employees than about issues like wages, taxes or
attracting qualified workers, according to a survey by the world's No. 1
staffing company, Adecco SA.

In Adecco's poll of senior executives, 55 percent named healthcare
benefits as their biggest current business challenge, and about a third
say they are holding back hiring because of healthcare reforms
introduced by U.S. President Barack Obama.

Healthcare's prominence as an issue has risen since the 2008-2009
recession, Adecco found: in 2007, only 35 percent called healthcare
their top worry.

Obama's 2010 healthcare law, upheld this year by the U.S. Supreme Court,
is expected to raise insurance costs for employers because it calls for
wider coverage of more people, including those with pre-existing medical


Comment: The Affordable Care Act (ACA) was designed to not disturb the
largest sector of health insurance coverage already in existence:
employer-sponsored health plans. Although costs were said to be almost
intolerable for many employers, ACA included provisions to improve
private health plans which will further increase costs for employers.
Thus it is no surprise that health care has moved up on the executives'
list of concerns as their biggest business challenge.

Before the Democrats settled on the ACA model of reform, employers were
looking for better ways of controlling costs. One of the models under
consideration was single payer, an attractive option because of its
greater efficiencies and assured coverage of everyone.

Business executives might have been more interested in the single payer
model except for two perceived drawbacks: 1) They were not assured that
they wouldn't have to foot much of the bill for a national health
program through higher payroll taxes, higher taxes on executive
compensation, and higher corporate taxes, and 2) Many of them are
ideologically conservative and did not want to see a government-run
health care financing system.

With the passage of ACA health care moved from a top concern of 35
percent of the executives to a top concern of 55 percent of them. That
suggests that they may believe they made a bad decision in passively
allowing ACA to move forward, though there was token opposition from the
U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Federation of Independent

Another change taking place is that businesses are relying more on
Medicare for their retirees as they pare back their health benefit
programs for former employees. Obviously they recognize that Medicare
provides a greater value for them than did their private programs,
especially because of the federal funding of Medicare. It would not be
much of a reach for them to decide that Medicare would also provide a
greater value for them if it became the health benefit program for their
active employees.

If we were to move forward with an improved Medicare that covered
everyone, then the employers would need to be convinced that the taxes
to fund the universal risk pool would be equitably distributed, and that
they would not have to bear an unfair excessive financial burden for the
program. Without getting into details on tax policy, suffice it to say
that such a goal is readily achievable.

That would leave only ideology as a hurdle. Successful businessmen
certainly place great importance on value. When it is demonstrated to
them that an improved Medicare for all would control their health care
costs well into the indefinite future, they would be very foolish to
reject such a good deal. They really wouldn't have to give up their
ideology. They could take it to the smoking lounge and vent with their
business colleagues, over a cigar and a snifter of brandy, how terrible
it is that they had to accept the terms of a single payer system, but,
after all, business is business.

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