In an election year where health care is a major topic in the presidential campaign, employer-sponsored programs face the possibility of major changes, as do the health insurers that companies use.
In September 2008, researchers estimated that as many as 20 million Americans would lose or choose to leave employer-based health insurance plans if Republican presidential candidate Sen. John McCain’s health care policies were enacted.
McCain’s proposal to eliminate the tax preference for health insurance would have dramatic consequences for the employer-based health insurance system, researchers reported in an online article of the health policy journal Health Affairs on September 16.
In a separate article on the Health Affairs Web site analyzing the health care plan of Democratic presidential nominee Sen. Barack Obama, researchers noted (as Workforce Management reported in its September 8 edition cover story) that the Democratic candidate’s plan could "undermine" employer-sponsored health insurance by driving up costs rather than using tax incentives to siphon employees from employer plans. Researchers said increasing the number of Americans with health insurance could increase costs for employers.
Researchers analyzing the McCain plan gave the first estimate of the number of employees who they believe would lose or leave employer-sponsored coverage. They said eliminating the tax preference would cause 20 million Americans to lose employer-based health insurance. Currently, 160 million Americans receive their health insurance through an employer.
"The McCain plan," the researchers concluded, "would shift coverage toward the nongroup market, lead to reductions in the comprehensiveness of coverage in that market through deregulation, and encourage employer-based coverage to become less generous as well."
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