Survey: Big business wants government to boost health coverage, lower prices

More than four in five top executives at large employers said the government must take a greater role in providing health insurance and controlling costs during the next decade, according to a survey on Thursday from the Purchaser Business Group on Health and the Kaiser Family Foundation with support from the West Health Institute. A similar number said it would be better for their business and employees.

It’s the latest sign that employers are growing increasingly desperate to rein in rising healthcare costs and spending. According to PBGH, annual family premiums for employer-sponsored health insurance increased 55% from 2010 to 2020, reaching $21,342 in 2020. The average single employee deductible increased from $917 to $1,644 among workers with a deductible that period.

Nearly 9 in 10 business leaders said the cost of providing health benefits would become unsustainable in the next five to 10 years. An even bigger number thought policymakers should strengthen antitrust enforcement and ban providers, drugmakers and health plans from acting anticompetitively. Another 9 in 10 respondents said they would support actions to improve price transparency and the total cost of care.

“Clearly, a consensus has emerged among those who foot the bills that the healthcare industry is not taking seriously enough the impact of rising costs that fail to correlate with higher quality healthcare,” PBGH CEO Elizabeth Mitchell said in a statement. “Our large employer members support competition and prefer market solutions. But they have reached their limit; they’re tired of pouring tons of money into a broken healthcare market that delivers uneven quality at bloated costs.”

More than one-third of top executives said the government should cap hospital prices in markets with limited or no competition. A similar number favored limits on the prices charged by out-of-network providers. Policies that allow the government to negotiate prices for high-cost, single-source drugs or limit drug price increases were about as popular.

“Relatively few respondents generally disagreed with proposals that would lower the age of Medicare eligibility to age 60 or create a new public plan coverage option, either for their own employees or the general public,” PBGH said in a statement.

But more than 40% of them worried that the government wouldn’t manage such programs effectively and that the healthcare industry’s political power would block government action to lower costs.

“Any efforts to expand public coverage options or restrain prices will be met with strong opposition from the healthcare industry,” Larry Levitt, executive vice president for health policy at KFF, said in a statement. “Employers, who foot much of the nation’s health care bill, could be a powerful counterweight.”


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