U.S. employers launch health reform coalition

Group opposes mandatory employer coverage, recommends Medicare reform

Twenty statewide chambers of commerce and employer organizations from around the United States are adding their voice to the federal health-care reform debate.

The Employers for Quality Health Care, which represents thousands of employers across the country, opposes employer-mandated health coverage, noting that most employers that can afford to provide health coverage already do so because it attracts and retains quality employees.

"Health-related spending accounts for 17 per cent of the nation's gross domestic product, and it's rising rapidly," said Joan Verplanck, president of the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce. "If we don't get costs under control, the stress on our economy may be insurmountable. Reform is in everyone's interest, but it must be done smart and it must be done right."

The group also opposes new government-run coverage that would shift millions of Americans off their existing private plans.

In an open letter to U.S. President Barack Obama and the U.S. Congress, the coalition supports the creation of consumer-driven health savings accounts, small-business pooling, and equal tax benefits for individual and employer-provided insurance plans.

The group also suggests the government consider incentives that emphasize health care outputs over inputs, rewarding providers based on outcomes and overall care and consumers based on prevention and wellness.

The coalition would also like to see existing government health plans like Medicare and Medicaid be reformed to eliminate fraud and waste and allow participants the choice of using the money spent on them to instead enrol in private plans.

"We stand united in support of free-market reforms that promote choice and competition - improving care, expanding coverage and reducing costs. We look forward to sharing real solutions with Congress, including many that have been effective in our own states," said George Israel, president of the Georgia Chamber of Commerce.

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