07 April 2007

Businesses think about national healthcare

This story on businesses speaking out for government involvement in healthcare ran in a dozen or more Southern papers, leading with: "Many executives of large companies are starting to call for a national approach to fixing health care, warning that an employer-subsidized health system is unsustainable."
“Five years from now this problem will have to be cured, or the competitiveness of the United States will be dramatically affected,” said J. Randall MacDonald, senior vice president for human resources at I.B.M. He called for a national debate on such topics as maintaining existing employer-subsidized health care, with “some level of umbrella coverage over that, some level of a single payer system.”

“A lot of positioning is going on now,” he said. “The reality is that changes are inevitable, I think sooner rather than later.”

..."“The way it’s going, there will be 75 million uninsured in another 10 years,” said James D. Sinegal, chief executive of Costco Wholesale, which subsidizes health care for 81,000 of its 100,000 workers in the United States. “The federal government has to lend some assistance.”

...“The system is going to break,” warned Carl T. Camden, president and chief executive of Kelly Services. “You can only put so many uninsured people through the emergency rooms before employers stop offering coverage.”

...Economists say that employers would raise wages if they did not have to pay for employee health care. The Treasury would stand to gain $140 billion a year in personal income taxes if the benefits were treated as wages, said Len Burman, director of the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center in Washington. There would be about $70 billion more in additional payroll taxes due on those wages, he said.
The story does a good job of delineating the differences between business sectors — including those who don't want more government involvement: "Craig R. Barrett, the chairman of Intel, another participant in the Better Health Care Together campaign, is skeptical about a new government role. He said the private sector could do the best job at improving efficiency in the system."

Plus a reason some small businesses might not want single-payer: "Another set of issues divides large companies from small businesses, which employ 50 percent of working Americans. Their owners worry that in some states they may be forced to spend for coverage of young workers with little interest in health coverage."

Right. All those young workers who don't want it. Until they need it.

In the meantime, UAW President Ron Gettelfinger called for "single-payer, universal, comprehensive national health care" at the union's bargaining convention last week in Detroit.

People's Weekly World Newspaper quoted Local 900 delegate Dwayne Walker, who said health care “was an issue that should have been dealt with a long time ago — we need national health care. We are all part of a community and the union looks out not only for its members but for the rest of the county too.”

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