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economic justice | health | labor

A death knell for employer-sponsored medical insurance coverage

The past decade has witnessed an unrelenting effort to shift the costs of
employer-sponsored coverage to the employees. This settlement is a landmark,
pivotal point in the history of employer-sponsored coverage.
Los Angeles Times
February 27, 2004

Union, Stores Reach a Deal to End Strike
By James F. Peltz, Melinda Fulmer and Ronald D. White

Negotiators reached a deal Thursday night that could end the California
supermarket strike and lockout, a bitter fight that highlighted the national
debate over how much companies should pay for workers' healthcare coverage.

...healthcare costs, their regular per-employee contributions to the
healthcare program would be capped at a set dollar limit...

 http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-supermain27feb27,1,2819295.story?coll=
la-home-headlines

From Don McCanne's quote-of-the-day:

Comment: Although there will be considerable diversionary discussion about
the other issues, this strike and lockout was really about only one issue.
Management wanted to change to a defined contribution program in order to
cap the companies' health care costs. Future cost increases will be the
responsibility of the employees. With continuing health care cost
escalation, the financial burden will be unbearable for these employees who
earn less than $30,000 per year.

The past decade has witnessed an unrelenting effort to shift the costs of
employer-sponsored coverage to the employees. This settlement is a landmark,
pivotal point in the history of employer-sponsored coverage.

With the success in shifting low income employees into a defined
contribution system, there is no doubt that higher income employees, who can
currently afford the costs, also will be shifted rapidly into defined
contribution programs. We can anticipate an accelerated growth in
high-deductible, managed care PPO plans because of the lower premiums
offered. Use of health savings accounts (HSAs) will increase, but they are
not insurance. HSAs are merely a vehicle to subsidize the health care of
wealthier individuals with taxpayer funds. We are witnessing the end of the
era of employer-sponsored coverage.

The healthy and wealthy will continue to do fine in this health care
environment. But both moderate and low income individuals who have
significant health care needs will face financial disaster along with
impaired access to care because of lack of affordability.

Actually, there is some good news in this disaster. This transformation of
the health care system will be extremely unstable and intolerable. It cannot
last long. It will become clear to all that we will need to shift our
abundant health care resources into an equitable, affordable system of
social insurance.

It remains to be seen how long we will tolerate a rapidly deteriorating
system and how much suffering we have to witness before we adopt a system of
social insurance.

The grocery workers stuck it out for nearly five months and then lost. Can
we show the nation a much better option in the next five months? Taking
longer will only increase the privation and suffering.

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