Category Archives: Health Care

Focusing on Health Care and Trade

Source: Dean Baker, Challenge: The Magazine of Economic Affairs, January-February 2007, Vol. 50 no. 1 (subscription needed)

The Democrats regained control of Congress in November in part as a result of the corruption and incompetence of the Republicans, but also in part because of their promises to make things better for the average family. Their ability to stay in power will depend on their ability to make good on these promises. Two areas that are central to the economic security of average workers are health-care reform and trade policy. The Democrats will have to put forward a clear progressive agenda in these areas if they expect to be taken seriously in future elections.

Where There’s Smoke: Employer Policies on Smoking

Source: Sandra M. Tomkowicz and Susan K. Lessack, Employee Relations Law Journal, Winter 2006, Vol. 32 no. 3

In response to a recent Surgeon General’s report highlighting the dangers of secondhand smoke, employers may be increasingly pressed to balance the rights of smokers and non-smokers. Policies that attempt to control off-the-job smoking pose higher litigation risks than policies targeted specifically at eliminating smoke in the workplace. Failing to provide a smoke-free environment also may pose a risk of litigation to employers.

An Ounce of Prevention May Be Worth a Pound of Cure: How Employees Can Prepare for an Ailing Workforce in the Event of an Avian Flu Outbreak

Source: Amy M. Scott and Von E. Hays, Employee Relations Law Journal, Winter 2006, Vol. 32 no. 3

Much well-deserved attention has been paid to the prospect of an avian flu outbreak in the United States. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the avian flu has not reached the United States. The only countries reporting human cases are China, Turkey, Indonesia, Cambodia, Thailand, and Vietnam. Currently, the virus is transmitted from infected birds to humans. The virus has not mutated to a from that can be transmitted directly from human to human. However, the potential for mutation exists. This potential is at the epicenter of our greatest fears, considering the devastating consequences of a global pandemic. We can either be paralyzed by such fear or we can be proactive in addressing the issue. In situations such as this, the proverbial ounce of prevention may truly be worth a pound of cure.

The impact of an avian flu pandemic is of no small consequence to employers, as the prospect of a pandemic creates a panoply of labor and employment issues. This article is designed to highlight some of those issues and provide meaningful strategies for dealing with the issues should they arise.

The 2nd Annual EBRI/Commonwealth Fund Consumerism in Health Care Survey, 2006: Early Experience With High-Deductible and Consumer-Driven Health Plans

Source: Paul Fronstin and Sara R. Collins, EBRI Issue Brief, December 2006, No. 300

This report presents findings from the EBRI/Commonwealth Fund Consumerism in Health Care Survey, 2006, the second annual version of this survey. The online survey of 3,158 privately insured adults ages 21–64 was conducted to provide nationally representative data regarding the growth of consumer-directed health plans (CDHPs) and high-deductible health plans (HDHPs), and their impact on the behavior and attitudes of health care consumers.

The Myths and Realities of Consumer-Driven Health Plans

Source: Bill Tait, Employee Benefit Plan Review, December 2006, Volume 61, no. 6

Few will argue that health care costs have increased at a record rate over the last few years in America. While much has been written on consumer-driven health plans, concerns still exist as to whether they are the best strategy for controlling health care inflation and ensuring appropriate utilization of and access to the health care system on a sustainable basis. The following are some of the most common myths about consumer-driven plans, along with the reality. 1. Consumer-driven plans are merely a cost-shifting strategy for employers to save money at the expense of their employees. 2. Consumer-driven plans force members to deny themselves necessary treatment because they have to cover more of the cost of care. 3. Prescription drug compliance rates for effective management of chronic illnesses, such as heart disease, will decline with the increasing prevalence of consumer-driven plans. 4. Consumer-driven health plans will attract “adverse selection,” with only younger, healthier consumers joining them.

Moving Beyond Political Deadlock: Health Reform Initiatives in States

Source: Rachel Degolia, Perspectives on Work, Summer 2006, Volume 10, no. 2

The Massachusetts health reforms approved in April 2006 are indicative of a larger trend among states, in the absence of federal action, states—on the front lines of dealing with the nation’s health care crisis—have begun to take the lead on comprehensive health care reforms.

The state experiments bubbling up around the country illustrate not only the potential for real progress, but also the problems and pitfalls of state-based health care reform. As a result of state-level health policy developments, reform advocates must grapple with new challenges. These include the need to anticipate and address the political and social consequences of state mandates and to help states devise strategies for curtailing rapidly rising health care costs.

The Hidden Cost of Jobs without Health Care Benefits

Source: Ken Jacobs, Perspectives on Work, Summer 2006, Volume 10, no. 2

In the last half of the twentieth century American health care financing emerged as a dual system: private, employer-sponsored care for most people was supplemented by public care for the poor and elderly. Today, however, rising health insurance premiums, shifting industrial composition, increased use of temporary and part-time workers, and a weakened bargaining position of workers in the labor market are factors leading to a marked shift in the nature of health care coverage for American workers.

Declining job-based coverage affects not only health care access and quality for those who are not covered; it also creates hidden costs for employers providing coverage and for taxpayers. Even worse; companies that pare down health benefits or adopt changes that make coverage unaffordable for workers undermine the market position of competitors, forcing them to follow suit as well. These, too, are hidden costs of non benefited jobs. Lawmakers at all levels in the United States are concerned about these issues and are looking for innovative solutions.

The High Concentration of U.S. Health Care Expenditures

Source: Mark W. Stanton, Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Research in Action, Issue 19, AHRQ Pub. No.06-0060, June 2006

Half of the population spends little or nothing on health care, while 5 percent of the population spends almost half of the total amount. Examining the distribution of health care expenses among the U.S. population sheds light on areas where changes in policy might bring about the greatest savings.