Tuesday, February 13, 2007
Business Ponders Health Care Burden
Corporate health care benefits, as The Christian Science Monitor reminds us, began as "an accident of history". They originated during World War Two as a way for companies to get around government-enforced wage limits by offering workers "back door" raises through the medium of increased benefits. Unfortunately, such benefits have long since become a burden to American companies, both large and small. American workers and their Congressional representatives are not the only groups committed to a new system of health care insurance. Major corporations are on board as well.
In conjunction with a major labor union, Wal-Mart executives recently started a campaign called "Better Health Care Together", and the Business Roundtable - a Washington-based group of large employers - has joined with the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) to help provide better health care for all. "We feel a huge sense of urgency," says Maria Ghazal, a director of the Roundtable task force on health care. "Mostly it's a sense that the way the system is now, if you can call it a system, is not sustainable."
Although corporations are more eager now than before to solve the health care conundrum, the ultimate direction of their efforts is far from certain. As the Monitor says, "the business world push doesn't settle a basic conservative-liberal divide over whether the key fix is a stronger role for government, or the introduction of more free-market competition..."
Some predict that the federal government will dominate the new system, but others imply that Bush's proposed tax deduction for health care will empower consumers to choose their own health care insurers, thus helping to stimulate competition among them. Employers are also suggesting that improvements in such business elements as information technology can improve the cost of health care insurance from within. Some are even open to the idea of pooling contributions into a government fund to help provide universal health insurance. No one knows what the new shape of health care insurance will be, but at least all parties involved are thinking.
"Burdened by healthcare costs, US businesses seek a shift" from The Christian Science Monitor