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Businesses Say Their Employees Can't Reduce Health Costs on Their Own

Most employers aren't sure whether consumer-driven health care will work.

September 22, 2005
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Only 28 percent of employers believe the primary responsibility for controlling health care costs lies with the people getting and giving care: employees, doctors and hospitals. Instead, many employers say, the responsibility lies with intermediaries such as insurers, the government and employers themselves.

United Benefit Advisors and Ingenix, a health research and information company, surveyed 794 U.S. employers, ranging from workplaces with fewer than 49 employees to large employers with more than a thousand.

Thirty-nine percent of employers surveyed said they're more supportive of federal intervention to address health care costs than they were a year ago. Thirty-three percent were not. Generally, this desire for federal intervention is aimed at getting more information about costs and quality of care. The overwhelming majority of employers--about 90 percent--say that over the next five years the U.S. will avoid turning to a taxpayer-financed health care system like Canada has.

Also from the survey:

·    Employers are committed to providing health benefits to employees, saying that it improves recruiting and retention. On the other hand, they "feel little obligation to do so for retirees."

·    Nothing employers have done to control health care costs, according to the study, has consistently been effective in continually reducing those costs. While many employers, for example, say that wellness programs and the management of chronic diseases have been effective, about the same number say that those practices have had little impact. And most employers just don't know yet if consumer-driven health care will cut costs in the long run.

·    New employees need not worry about coverage: employers are widely opposed to the idea of saving on health care costs by increasing the waiting period for new hires.

United Benefit Advisors released a separate survey, related to premium costs, in late August.

--Todd Raphael

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