Who says your employer should choose your healthcare plan?
Senator Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) wants to know why this must continue to be the case, given that employers have a tendency to do what is best for them rather than what might be best for their employees while increasing the costs of insurance by limiting competition.
Wyden has been pitching the idea of opening up the health insurance exchanges, likely to be created in the reform effort, to all Americans – not just those who are not covered by employer plans. The Senator’s argument boils down to the idea that by freeing everyone to participate in the health care exchange, employees would be ‘liberated’ from their employer chosen health care plans and be free to shop for policies they actually want. By permitting this, we would be adding 200 million potential customers into the system, bringing choice and competition. The result – pressure on insurance providers to lower prices and innovate plans in order to compete.
What could possibly be wrong with this idea?
Yet, there have been no Congressional takers. The loss of the employer plans would be more than the private insurance companies could bear. Accordingly, they’ve directed the insurance lobby to make it very clear to their Congressional mouthpieces that the Wyden plan is, and shall likely remain, a non-starter.
Alain Enthoven, a senior fellow at the Stanford University’s Center for Health Policy, and a supporter fo Wyden’s plan, puts it best-
What makes anybody think your employer is the right entity to choose your health insurance? President Obama’s been going around saying, to my dismay, ‘If you like what you’ve got, you can keep it.’ I wish he would say, ‘If you hate your insurance company, you can switch.’ ”
Via The San Francisco Gate
It’s awfully hard to argue against the man’s point. Just because your employer provides you with health care, it doesn’t mean you’re going to like it – particularly when our largest employers operate their own self-funded, ERISA regulated health insurance plans that allow self-insured companies to behave with near impunity while severely limiting employees’ rights to do anything about it.
It’s not like it was all part of some ‘grand design’ that employers would be at the center of our health care system.
In fact, it was a pure mistake of history. During WWII, with limits placed on salaries companies could pay, employers were struggling to come up with novel ways to attract employees. That’s when they hit upon the idea of offering health care coverage as a benefit of employment. And for a long time, it all worked out pretty well.
But today, what was once a benefit used to attract employees is often a yoke around many an employee’s neck, keeping workers stuck in jobs they might otherwise leave in a New York minute. Employees realize that if they quit their job to pursue a more entrepreneurial enterprise or seek employment in a field that is more interesting to them, they do so at great risk to their families because they will be letting their company provided health care benefit slip away.
Is there anything more ‘un-American’ than that?
Congressional ‘traditionalists’, like Sen. Olympia Snowe, continue to argue that they don’t want to disrupt the current system, preferring to improve and build upon it. As a result, none of the five bills that have passed through Congressional committees, including the Senate Finance Committee where Wyden is a member, are willing to include the measure that would allow all Americans the opportunity to choose the insurance they want.
But Wyden is not giving up. Turned away by his own committee, the Senator is planning to reintroduce the idea on the floor of the full Senate.
As there is no logical basis whatsoever for the Senate to reject Wyden’s plan, this should be a debate worth hearing as the Senators argue their lobbyist prepared talking points.