More Than Two Thirds Report Bureaucracy of Health Care System Worsening
A survey of California employers from mid October until the end of November found that 79.53% of the businesses reported that “HMOs and insurance companies” are “very responsible” for “the problems in the current health care system” — the most to blame for those problems. 58.27% indicated that they “support universal coverage.” More than three quarters (76.38%) believed HMOs and managed care decreased health care quality for the sick.
Nine of 10 (92.91%) complained of premium increases. 66.14% said health care bureaucracy has worsened in the last four years and 68.5% project a continued decline over the next two years. The full results can be viewed at www.businesshealthsurvey.org.
The Business Health Survey was a collaborative effort by the California Nurses Association, California Medical Association, American Small Business Alliance, and the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights. With the help of local chambers of commerce, executives from a diverse group of businesses with divergent political affiliations were surveyed. They included the Office Depot, Pacific Gas & Electric, Holiday Inn Hotel, Honda, Marriott, Peet’s Coffee & Tea, Yellow Cab Cooperative, Sunrise Country Club, Mascone Center, San Francisco Opera, and the Fresno Business Journal.
Among the other significant findings reported by company executives:
‘ 55.91% stated they had been asked to intervene with an HMO or insurer to help an employee with a coverage dispute;
‘ in the wake of September 11th, 70.08% supported increased “government funding to expand community health clinics that serve the poor;”
‘ More than two-thirds said they would probably support combining the workers compensation system with the health insurance system;
‘ 55.12% said they preferred not-for-profit organizations administering health plans;
‘ 62.2% supported “offering uninsured Americans income tax deductions, tax credits, or other financial assistance to help them purchase private health insurance on their own.”
‘ 92.91% reported an increase in their health care plan costs over the past two years;
‘ 76.38% stated that “managed care plans have decreased the quality of health care for people who are sick.”
127 of the 1000 executives contacted responded to the survey.
“As the biggest purchasers of health coverage, businesses are really the final piece of the universal health care puzzle,” said Sara Nichols, legislative director for the California Nurses Association. “This survey shows what we’ve long believed, businesses have everything to gain and little to lose from a comprehensive solution to our health care crisis.”
“The business response represents a true concern over California’s health care system, and should form the basis for a coalition moving together to resolve problems,” noted Steve Thompson, vice president of the California Medical Association.
“Given that employers supply over 20% of the now estimated $1.42 trillion annual national health care expenditure, they represent a critical constituency in the health care system,” commented Emmy Rhine, the consumer advocate with the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights who coordinated the survey. “Their views, input, and participation are imperative to the success of any real effort to make the system more fair, effective, and rational.”
The groups will be holding town hall meetings with employers across California in the coming year to develop broad based support for new solutions to health care problems.
Businesses Support Government Involvement
Bucking the perception that employers fear government involvement in health care, the business representatives surveyed indicated overwhelming support (70.08%) for “increased government funding to expand community health clinics.” Most were initially hesitant about the idea of “a system where health insurance is not linked with employment, and instead all businesses pay to a health care fund a fixed percentage base on the company’s size” (35.43% in support versus 55.12% opposed). However, more than two-thirds supported the idea (70.02% in support versus only 22.05% opposed) when it was qualified with the question: “would you support this if it guaranteed that all your workers and their dependents were covered, and it would cost your business less than it pays now in health care costs?”
“If employers’ current premium costs could be frozen, they would support a significantly overhauled health system if it improved quality and expanded coverage,” said FTCR’s executive director Jamie Court. “This offers much hope for finding common ground with patients, doctors, nurses, and hospitals.”
The survey was made possible by a grant from the Nathan Cummings Foundation. General support for the Foundation’s public education programs on health insurance has been received from the Institute for Civil Society and the California Wellness Foundation.