The Washington-based organization, which typically does not take positions on such issues, said the reason it is coming out in favor of an individual mandate is because its members believe it is a vital element to reforming the nation’s health care system.
“I think we are on the cusp of big change in the U.S. on health care. We also have a significant number of people who will be elected or re-elected” who are ready to enact reforms, says NBGH president Helen Darling. “Things are coming together.”
While the NBGH supports an individual mandate, it continues to oppose any requirement that employers provide coverage.
“We believe that a mandate can backfire and will drive some companies out of business,” Darling says. Moreover, “once the state legislatures get their hands on it, all of the mischief that goes on with coverage mandates” that expand the scope of employer-provided coverage could occur. “So it would be impossible to curb increases in health care costs.”
Instead, the NBGH believes that states and the federal government should work together with the health plans, employers and other stakeholders to develop low-cost, voluntary programs that would cover working families with low or moderate incomes, as well as programs that would help small employers offer health coverage to their employees, Darling says.
NBGH members also support retaining the current favorable tax treatment of employer-sponsored health care coverage and would like individuals who purchase health insurance on their own to receive the same tax breaks.
A tool kit approved by the NBGH board of directors contains more than 20 essential principles that its members believe are necessary to improve health care affordability, quality and safety, reduce health care costs and expand access to health care services.
A copy of the NBGH’s position on health reform can be found at www.businessgrouphealth.org.