Health Care Update

By March 23, 2006Health Care


Broken Benefits House … Not Condemned – the buyouts under discussion with GM and their workers are truly significant in marking an end to the era of unlimited big benefits and the crushing burden of future benefit promises. There are myriad issues that affect the competitiveness of any given company. For GM, benefits for present workers and retirees have become a cancer eating away at the rest of the great corporate behemoth. Time will tell whether this will help turn GM’s fortunes – it’s a bold and positive move by both the company and labor alike.

The problem was over-promising expansive and expensive health benefits to an increasingly unhealthy worker and retiree population. The math never worked and is increasingly and dangerously unstable and incendiary in nature.

Employer-Provided Benefits House Not Broken – some will want to toss GM and other companies in like straits the lead anchor of mandated maintenance of effort coverage. I’d put the Fair Share nuts in this camp too. Others – the free-range HSA/consumerism bohemian nihilists – will see this as confirmation that employer-based health care is broken and we all must become HSA pioneers on the benefits prairie. Both views are bunk.

We need to work towards a more responsible construct on health care – a construct that encompasses employers, workers, health care providers, the insurance industry and many others. The watchword must be responsible consumerism. We’ve binged too long on virtually free employer-provided health coverage.

Better Balanced Health Care – in my humble opinion (IMHO), we need a blend between our current employer-centered system with greater individual autonomy and responsibility for individuals. I see a system where employers sponsor coverage and contract for wellness and disease management services. I see a system where individuals benefit from the natural pooling employers provide yet have access to greater autonomy and individual control over their health benefits as they desire to and are able to do so.

Hopefully the provider community will help us on our “diet” by working more closely together (click here for the report of the Johns Hopkins/Healthways Disease Management Summit I attended last year; team-based medicine is much more economical and produces far better outcomes).

In Defense of Enzi-Nelson (a.k.a., Blog Heaven) – I’d guess I’ll give up my ability to email or blog (or is blogmail?) when they pry my fingers away from the keyboard or consign me to dial-up service. More seriously, I’ve had some fun recently with a couple of over-eager opponents of the Enzi-Nelson Small Business Health Plan bill. Here’s a link to the health care archives and the comments submitted to my 3/17 email/blog.

Their basic argument is that absent benefit mandates, health plans won’t market and employers won’t offer well-rounded coverage. We disagree – we need government to tell us what to offer rather less than we need government to tell us what socks to wear or how to tie our shoes.

It’s a very different view of the proper role for government vs. the private sector. We make no apologies for not subscribing to the nanny-government view. We manufacturers and employers generally take great pride in the coverage we offer our workers. Please leave the nannies (social security numbers attached) to day care….