Thursday, November 12, 2009

Business Roundtable's Health Report Draws Democrats' Attention

health insurance

WASHINGTON -- Democrats on Thursday touted a report from the Business Roundtable on health-care costs, saying it showed their legislative efforts would reduce employers' costs in coming years.

The Business Roundtable, which represents the chief executives of major U.S. companies, released a report that stated that without changes to the current U.S. health-care system, costs would rise to $28,530 per employee. But the "right legislative reforms" would reduce those costs by more than $3,000 per employee, according to the report.

The report was conducted with Hewitt Associates, an Illinois-based consulting firm.

President Barack Obama in a statement said that the report "underscores what experts and businesspeople have told us all along--comprehensive health insurance reform is one of the most important investments we can make in American competitiveness."

A statement from Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus (D., Mont.) states that the report "adds to the evidence that the bottom line is on the line for businesses in health reform."

The report points to a number of possible changes included in some form in House and Senate health-care bills to make health spending based more on quality than quantity and improve prevention and wellness efforts. One example is payment "bundling" to doctors and hospitals, which would provide a single payment for all services related to a treatment or condition.

Another bright spot cited by the report is a section in legislation approved by the Senate Finance Committee that would design a system of "value-based" payments from Medicare to doctors and hospitals. The proposed system would base some payment rates on quality measures.

Ivan G. Seidenberg, chairman of the Business Roundtable and chairman and chief executive of Verizon Communications Inc., in a statement cited a need to "make sure we improve, not erode, U.S. competitiveness."

"We can do that by implementing the broad-based delivery system reforms approved by the Senate Finance Committee and avoiding ill-advised proposals such as the public option," Seidenberg said.

But the report states that the current bills "are missing some ingredients" to permanently draw down future growth in health costs. The report commends the bills' provisions on "comparative effectiveness research," which evaluates the effectiveness of treatment and therapies, but states that "we must find ways" to encourage health-care providers to adhere to evidence-based guidelines on care.

Business groups opposed to the House and Senate proposals are unveiling a series of three ads that will run across the U.S. The groups, which are organized under a coalition called Employers for a Healthy Economy, include the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Association of Manufacturers, the National Retail Federation and the National Federation of Independent Business.

One ad warns that the bills do too little to control costs and would result in "billions in crushing tax increases."

"Our nation needs health care reform but the proposals currently before Congress will only further imperil our economy and cost Americans jobs," said Blair Latoff, a coalition spokesperson.