Support for Universal Health Coverage Builds Among CEOs
Several CEOs of large employers have begun to partner with Democratic lawmakers and union officials to develop universal health insurance proposals, "not so much out of social solidarity" but "out of financial necessity," the New York Times Magazine reports.
Service Employees International Union President Andy Stern, who recently partnered with Wal-Mart CEO Lee Scott on a proposal to implement universal health insurance by 2012, said, "Unfortunately, simply making this a moral issue hasn't worked. Making it clear that this is a competitiveness and jobs issue, as well -- that is what has propelled the business community into this discussion."
The Times Magazine profiled the efforts of Safeway CEO and Chair Steven Burd and Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) to develop a universal health insurance proposal that seeks to "achieve universal health insurance in a financially sound way," with all U.S. residents required to purchase coverage.
Under the proposal, U.S. residents would purchase health insurance directly, rather than through employers. Employers would "cash out" health insurance, which would provide employees with higher wages to purchase coverage. The federal government would regulate the health insurance policies to ensure that they provide minimum benefits.
The plan also would replace Medicaid for lower-income residents with subsidies to purchase coverage. The subsidies would be funded through a tax on employers based on size and revenue. According to the Times Magazine, some employers support the proposal, but others are "not necessarily so committed to subsidizing preventive care or providing benefits as generous as Wyden's plan" and "are certainly not that enthusiastic about government doing more -- even if it's a plan that preserves a large role for private insurance" (Cohn, New York Times Magazine, 4/1).