Category Archives: Health Care

State Government Employee Health Benefits in the United States

Source: Christopher G. Reddick and Jerrell D. Coggburn, Review of Public Personnel Administration, Vol. 27 no. 1, March 2007
(subscription required)

Employer-sponsored health benefits are an important but relatively understudied area in public sector human resource management. This study examines the choices that state governments make in the United States and the views of state human resource directors (HRD) on health benefits. Survey data, gathered from state HRDs in fall 2005, reveal several important findings: In terms of choices, the most common plan offered is the preferred provider organization (PPO); less than one third of states offer health benefits to nontraditional partners; health benefits improve employee satisfaction and the performance of the state government; and cost to the state government is the most important factor that affects choice of plan. There is not a high level of agreement on what strategies state government should pursue to reduce costs of health benefits; however, there is some agreement that premiums will be increasing in the near future.

Paying for Promises

Source: Jonathan Walters, Governing, Vol. 20 no. 5, February 2007

Call it the six stages of GASB 45: anger, denial, sorrow, acceptance, study and action. That’s been the general response to a new set of governmental accounting rules that ask state and local governments to spell out the costs of their promises to provide retired employees with health care as well as other post-employment benefits.

White Paper: State Government Employee Health Care Benefits

Source: National Association of State Personnel Executives Healthcare Taskforce, NASPE, September 2006 (the paper can be downloaded from one of the frames on this page)

No matter how you look at healthcare, it cannot be overlooked as a huge overall expense for state governments as well as all large employers—General Motors recently announced that $1,500 of the average cost of per vehicle sold is attributed to employee healthcare costs. Starbucks spends more on employee healthcare than it does on coffee beans. In state governments, an additional 9-16 percent of total payroll goes toward providing healthcare for employees. The Central States Compensation Association reports that with an average salary of $19.16 per hour for its member state workforces, an additional average of $2.16 is spent on healthcare or 11 percent. Southeastern States Compensation Association reports a salary of $14.94 and an average of $1.98 per hour for healthcare or 13 percent. From a total compensation standpoint, healthcare trails only cash (salary, wages) as state governments largest cost factor in most states and is the most administratively complex.

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.