Category Archives: Health Care

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.