Issue: Should employers be required to provide healthcare insurance for all full-time employees?
All Employers Should Provide Affordable Healthcare Coverage
By: Anthony M. Marlon, M.D.
As the world’s last remaining superpower, the United States continues to boast economic advantages that no other country can claim. However, one of the most challenging sociopolitical issues in this country continues to be the plight of the uninsured. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, nearly 15 percent of Americans are without healthcare insurance. In Nevada, 16 percent have no coverage. Of those with coverage, nearly 50 percent are recipients of government health benefits: Medicare for the senior and disabled populations, Medicaid for the poor, or veterans’ benefits for our former fighting men and women, among others. The remaining 50 percent with coverage receive their benefits from their employers, through fully-insured or self-insured plans.
Lost in these statistics is the fact that approximately 70 percent of the uninsured are engaged in either part- or full-time employment. Is it unreasonable to expect that employers provide healthcare benefits to their employees? Not only do I believe it to be reasonable, I believe it is a fundamental expectation of our employer-based system. For too long, many smaller employers in this country have avoided the obligations of their larger counterparts. By not offering at least moderately comparable benefit packages, small employers minimize the rewards for their employees – many of whom are key to growing and building those businesses.
The argument is often made that providing healthcare benefits in today’s economy is cost-prohibitive. While it is certainly true that the cost to provide healthcare is increasing, there are a variety of affordable options that can provide basic levels of coverage without compromising profitability. Many chambers of commerce, including the one in Las Vegas, offer basic healthcare benefit packages to small businesses as a value-added component of membership. Many healthcare insurers throughout the country offer lower-cost health plans, often with variable levels of cost sharing among employer and employees.
It is time to begin a dialogue on a business model that mandates employers provide healthcare insurance to their employees. Fundamentally, America operates on an employer-based system, yet we have wide gaps in benefits available to our workers. By mandating that all employers provide some basic level of affordable healthcare coverage, we will make tremendous strides in solving this perplexing and ongoing problem of the uninsured.
Small Businesses Need Affordable Options
By: Randy Robison
Should small business owners be required to provide healthcare insurance for their full-time employees? The debate raised by this question has been raging for decades throughout the country, as well as here in Nevada. The National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) believes that business owners should provide basic coverage for their employees, but it has become more and more difficult for small businesses to afford to do so.
For over 30 years, employers of all sizes have been the targets of government-mandated employee healthcare benefit legislation. Initially, such mandates were limited in scope and meant to truly provide a basic level of coverage for employees. This not only made good health sense – it made good business sense. However, over the last several decades, the list of mandated benefits has continued to grow at an alarming rate, both in number and scope. The result? The skyrocketing cost of healthcare insurance has climbed steadily to the top of the list of small business concerns. This not only threatens the health of employees; it threatens the health – and survival – of small businesses.
The solution, however, is not an outright repeal of all healthcare benefits. Rather, the solution is providing a mechanism for allowing small businesses to compete with their big-business counterparts on the cost and availability of healthcare insurance for their employees. One such method now being considered in Congress is to allow for Association Health Plans, or AHPs. AHPs would allow small business owners to band together across state lines through their membership in bona-fide associations (like NFIB) to purchase healthcare insurance for their families and employees. By joining together, small employers will enjoy greater bargaining power, economies of scale and administrative efficiencies. In this way, AHPs will level the playing field and give participating small employers the same advantages as Fortune 500 companies and unions.
AHPs will make healthcare insurance more affordable for small employers. In fact, according to the Congressional Budget Office, AHPs would save small business owners and their employees as much as 25 percent on their healthcare insurance. Because healthcare insurance will be more affordable and more available, more small firms will provide it their employees and families. In short, AHPs make good health sense and good business sense.