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Posts Tagged ‘health care coverage’

Health Care Legislation Passed by House Will Force Job Losses

In Uncategorized on March 22, 2010 at 10:24 pm

The Senate-passed healthcare legislation will unquestionably burden Americans with countless mandates, new taxes, penalties and higher insurance premiums. Small businesses will be hindered by stringent regulations and taxes that will ultimately force them to slash jobs. This bill comes at a time when unemployment stands as the most important problem facing the country today.

The House on Sunday night voted 219-212 to send H.R. 3590, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act – the health care bill passed by the Senate on Christmas Eve – to President Obama for his signature. Later, the House voted 220-211 to approve H.R. 4872, the Health Care and Education Affordability Reconciliation Act of 2010, a package of amendments to the Senate bill. That measure now goes to the Senate, where it is expected to be considered this week.

The Senate bill imposes a penalty of $750 per full-time worker on companies with 50 or more employees that do not provide coverage to full-time workers. But the House reconciliation bill would increase that penalty to $2,000, with the first 30 workers exempted. If an employer offers coverage but the coverage is deemed unaffordable to a full-time employee, that employee can opt out to a new purchasing exchange. The company would then be assessed $3,000 for each of those employees up to a cap of $2,000 for every full-time worker on the payroll. This mandate becomes applicable in 2014.

The National Retail Federation expressed extreme disappointment at the House’s passage of sweeping health care reform legislation over the weekend, saying added labor costs under the bill will cost many retail workers their jobs.

“This is a historic moment, but not a cause for celebration. Congress has embarked on a dangerous, anti-job experiment in the midst of the worst economy our nation has seen in decades,” NRF Senior Vice President for Government Relations Steve Pfister said. “How many lost jobs will it take before Congress reverses course?”

“Our nation simply cannot afford more job losses during this economy, and many businesses already struggling to keep their doors open may not be able to withstand this added financial burden,” Pfister said. “Retailers have told Congress all along that we value our employees and want to expand upon the millions of workers and their families for whom we already provide coverage, but that to do that we need reform that would lower costs. Instead, we’ve been handed employer mandates that do just the opposite while doing little or nothing about the cost of medical care, which in turn drives higher coverage costs.”

“We are particularly concerned about mid-sized companies that are large enough for the mandates to apply but too small to have the ability to absorb these added costs,” Pfister said. “They could be among the hardest hit. And small businesses that drive so much of the job creation in our country are going to be forced to hold their size under 50 workers to avoid the employer mandate threshold.”

Under the bill, seniors will see their Medicare benefits significantly reduced, resulting in limited choices and higher costs. While Medicare will be cut, Medicaid will be expanded, despite the fact that the program is going broke and states are struggling to keep up with the expiring federal matching program. Imposing an unfunded mandate will only exacerbate Medicaid’s problems.

“If health care is not funded properly through Medicare then the end result will be greater rationing of our health care system and fewer, more costly options for Medicare recipients”, said Peter Shanley, CEO of The Small Business Council of America (SBCA), a national nonpartisan, nonprofit organization which represents the interests of privately-held and family-owned businesses on federal tax, health care and employee benefit matters.  “The quality and availability of health care will go down and Medicare patients will be hurt in the long run.”

The new health law also empowers federal officials to dictate how doctors treat privately insured patients (Senate bill, pp. 148-149).  Never before in history, except on narrow issues such as drug safety, has this been done. The bill will require nearly all Americans to be in a “qualified plan,” then says that plans can pay only doctors who implement whatever regulations the Secretary of Health and Human Services imposes to improve “quality.”  That covers everything in medicine — whether your cardiologist uses a stent or does bypass surgery, whether your ob/gyn settles for a pap smear or orders a pelvic sonogram.  It could also cover reproductive issues.

There are many problems with the nation’s current healthcare system that can be rectified through medical liability reform, pooling health insurance, offering tax incentives, allowing states to customize programs, and reforming insurance regulations. Forcing a government takeover of healthcare, especially through parliamentary gimmicks, will not solve America’s healthcare problems – it will only exacerbate them.

New Study Reveals Declines in the Health of American Workforce

In Uncategorized on September 22, 2009 at 5:30 pm

In the midst of the most vigorous national health care debate in 15 years, and at a time of heightened economic insecurity, new data on employers show that the health of employed American workers is trending downward in a number of important areas. The State of Health in the American Workforce, a report released today by the Families and Work Institute (FWI), finds that only 28% of employees today report that their overall health is “excellent,” down from 34% just six years ago. Perhaps surprisingly, men’s overall health has declined more rapidly than women’s. The report also sheds light on the relationship between an effective workplace and employee health, underlining the significant role that employers play beyond providing health insurance and wellness programs.

Among its many findings, the report reveals:

  • 41% of employees report experiencing three or more indicators of stress sometimes, often or very often;
  • One in three employees experiences one or more symptoms of clinical depression; and
  • One in five employees has trouble falling asleep very often or fairly often and 31% awaken too early and have trouble falling back to sleep, also very often or fairly often.
  • 21% are receiving treatment for high blood pressure and 14% are being treated for high cholesterol.

Furthermore, the report finds that nearly half of U.S. employees (49%) have not engaged in regular physical exercise in the last 30 days, including 22% not engaging in any rigorous physical exercise. And despite a push to stop smoking at the workplace, one in four smokes.

In terms of health care coverage, 24% of low-wage/low-income employees have no insurance from their employers or any other source, compared with only 5% of middle- and high-income employees. Low-wage/low-income employees are also much less likely to receive at least five paid sick days — only 46% do compared with 66% of middle- and high-wage and -income employees. According to industry research firm IBISWorld, around 162 million people, or 61% of the population under 65 years of age, receive health insurance coverage as part of employee benefit plans, and more than 80% of employees in these plans are from the private sector.

As to whether having an effective workplace makes a difference for employee health and well-being, the FWI data suggest that the answer is “yes” — and wage level and gender also influence in what way. For example, FWI finds that 38% of employees in workplaces that fall into the “high overall effectiveness” category (based on six measurable criteria that include economic security, autonomy, work-life fit) report “excellent overall health.” By contrast, only 19% of employees in workplaces that fall into the “low overall effectiveness” category report “excellent overall health.”
“Few would disagree that the health care path we are on represents an untenable route to increasing costs and diminishing returns,” said Ellen Galinsky, co-founder and president of FWI. “This new report is replete with evidence that several key measures of employee health are declining, and that employer policies fostering employee engagement and satisfaction are also associated with better employee health. The message is clear that beyond any reform measures on the table in Washington, it is urgent for employers and employees to pay attention to how they can promote better health, which ultimately will save money.”
The new report is based on data from FWI’s 2008 National Study of the Changing Workforce (NSCW), the only study of its kind to provide 30+ year comparisons (from 1977 to 2008) of life on and off the job.(1) The new State of Health in the American Workforce report focuses on 2002 and 2008 data.

Among the other noteworthy findings of the new FWI report:

  • Employees’ physical and mental health, stress levels, sleep quality and energy levels all significantly impact important work outcomes of interest to employers, such as engagement, turnover intent and job satisfaction. Thirty-five percent of employees who rate their current overall health as excellent are highly engaged in their jobs, compared with only 25%, 22% and 23% of employees who rate their overall health as good, fair or poor, respectively.
  • Despite the prevalence of employer health insurance programs, 8% of employees in fact have no health insurance. Nearly two-thirds (66%) of U.S employees are covered by health insurance offered by their employers. Of the balance, 26% choose to access health insurance from another source (e.g., a spouse’s employer), but 8% of employees have no health insurance from either their employer or from another source.
  • Income level makes a difference. Low-wage/low-income employees are less likely to have access to employer health insurance. They are also less likely to use it, if it is available, and they are less likely to be covered by another source. Sixty-six percent of low-wage/low-income employees have access to an employer health plan compared with 88% of middle- and high-wage and -income employees.
  • Employees who receive at least five paid days off per year for personal illness report significantly better work and health/well-being outcomes. Fifty-six percent of employees with at least five paid days off for personal illness report high job satisfaction compared to 49% with less than five days off. Within the five-plus day group, 71% report no signs of depression, versus 61% of those with less than five days off.
  • Having paid vacations bode well for personal health and well-being, as well as intent to stay in one’s job — and longer vacations offer greater benefits than shorter ones. Seventy-nine percent of employees have access to paid vacations with an average yearly time off of 16 days. However, 39% of employees don’t use all of their vacation time and 24% take five or fewer days for longest vacation. Eighty-two percent of employees with 13+ paid vacation days say they are “not at all likely to leave their jobs” compared to 68% with 6-12 vacation days. 

To view FWI’s study click here.

To view IBISWorld’s U.S. Health and Welfare Funds Report, click here.