Employer Survey Reveals Strong Concerns about Health Care Regulation

Published December 1, 2008

There is great uncertainty about the future of American health care among corporate health benefit professionals, according to Miller & Chevalier and the American Benefits Council’s 2008 Corporate Health Care Policy Forecast Survey.

The survey was designed to measure the perspectives and attitudes of leading benefit executives on the direction of health care policy in the coming year.

Cost Concerns Predominant

By wide margins—and regardless of their personal political affiliation—the people who design and administer employer health plans want the president and Congress to pay more attention to issues affecting the cost of health care (58 percent) and the quality of health services (74 percent), instead of continuing to talk mainly about how to make sure all Americans have health coverage of some kind.

Employers face a constant struggle to provide quality health care options for their employees as costs continue to skyrocket. While they appreciate the attention that has been paid to health care coverage, employers reported they hope the coming months will bring useful debate on health care cost and quality issues.

Quality Improvements Wanted

Many employers are concerned about, and have implemented programs designed to improve, health care quality, the survey notes.

In addition to the measures they have already adopted themselves, employers would like government to promote the reporting of health care quality outcomes and cost transparency and encourage the use of health information technology, according to the survey.

ERISA Preemption Important

Business leaders almost unanimously believe maintaining the federal Employee Retirement Income Security Act’s (ERISA) preemption framework is vital to continuing employer-sponsored health coverage.

The central element of ERISA is that employers can maintain uniform national benefits because ERISA preempts states from imposing regulations on employer-sponsored health care and other benefit plans. However, several members of Congress have proposed waivers and other measures that would in some cases override the federal law and permit states to regulate employee benefit plans.

Regardless of their company’s size, geography, industry, or even the respondent’s political affiliation, respondents overwhelmingly support maintaining ERISA standards (91 percent) and oppose individual regulation at the state level (84 percent).

More Employer Sponsorship

Employers understand continuing to provide health care to their employees is very important. Eighty-seven percent said they think employees would prefer to get their health insurance through their employers if similarly priced options were available.

Employers also report being worried about proposed changes in the tax treatment of health insurance, such as presidential candidate Sen. John McCain’s proposal to extend to individuals who purchase their own policies the same tax benefits currently available to employers who sponsor coverage.

Susan Relland ([email protected]) is an attorney with Miller & Chevalier, Chartered in Washington, DC.

For more information …

“2008 Corporate Health Care Policy Forecast Survey,” Miller & Chevalier, Chartered, and the American Benefits Council, September 2008: http://www.americanbenefitscouncil.org/documents/corphealthcare_survey.pdf