Health Care Costs Push Businesses Into Reform Debate
After years of relative disengagement, America's large employers are starting to actively support efforts to reform the U.S. health care system. So what's driving so many CEOs to get behind the idea? To re-tool an old political slogan, "It's the costs, stupid."
In kicking off a new pro-reform campaign this week, Safeway CEO Steve Burd and other business leaders pointed out that the average Fortune 500 firm next year will have a health care bill that exceeds its net income.
Most of these companies already provide health insurance to employees, but rising premium costs over the years have signaled that the current system isn't working for U.S. businesses the way it once did. So they're lining up behind a new solution: expand health insurance coverage to everyone.
While Gov. Schwarzenegger was riding the wave of new support for his health care proposal from the coalition, his administration also took a cue from a study in the journal Health Affairs about the costs of medical services for uninsured patients, noting that hospitals collect only a small percentage of what they bill the uninsured.
Commenting on the study, Health and Human Services Agency Secretary Kim Belshé said that "all insured Californians have been bearing the costs of unpaid hospital bills." Belshé reiterated one of Schwarzenegger's main talking points, that his plan "would eliminate the hidden tax associated with unpaid medical bills."
However, some groups remain unconvinced that Schwarzenegger's proposal is the best answer for California's health care problems. The California Nurses Association is in that category, and more than 1,000 nurses on Tuesday rallied at the state Capitol in support of Sen. Sheila Kuehl's measure to establish a state-run, single-payer health care system.
Before Schwarzenegger and Burd headed to the Legislature on Thursday to talk health care, lawmakers reviewed bills dealing with medical errors, Medi-Cal reimbursements and electronic health records.