The Business Roundtable is asking Congress, the Bush administration and a host of other healthcare stakeholdersincluding taxpaying citizensto rally behind an 11-point platform that aims to expand health coverage, improve access and boost quality of care.
Just dont call it universal healthcare.
Maria Ghazal, director of public policy for the Business Roundtable, said the group doesnt favor a single-payer, government-run program, which has become the calling card for many universal coverage proposals. Instead, it wants to keep the employer-based coverage system in place while enlisting every Americanat a minimumto carry some level of insurance that protects against the high costs of catastrophic care.
The Business Roundtable CEOs wanted to make it clear that they are committed to maintaining and improving the employer-based healthcare system, Ghazal said. But clearly it needs to be improved, and we have a competitive interest to do so.
On Capitol Hill last week, the organization, which is composed of chief executive officers whose companies represent more than 10 million employees and provide healthcare coverage for more than 35 million people, called for the general improvement of healthcare through the use of health information technology, transparency, tax law revisions, medical liability reform, and a greater emphasis on wellness and prevention.
The platform, officially hammered out by the Business Roundtables Health and Retirement Task Force, also calls for renewing the State Childrens Health Insurance Program, expanding comparative effectiveness programsand making the results public.
Healthcare costs are the No. 1 cost pressure facing American businesses, according to Mike McCallister, president and CEO of Humana and chairman of the Business Roundtables health task force.
Quite simply, healthcare coverage is out of reach for many businesses, employees and their families, McCallister said. This situation can and must be resolved through bipartisan action now.
In January, the Business Roundtable joined with the AARP and the Service Employees International Union to form Divided We Fail, a coalition that has pushed for universal healthcare coverage and has lobbied on other domestic fronts, like strengthening Social Security and establishing incentives to help workers save money.
The partnership, often referred to as the strange bedfellows coalition because of its mix of labor, business and consumer groups, recently endorsed legislation by Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Judd Gregg (R-N.H.) that would require the CMS to publicly release its claims data.
While Divided We Fail is technically separate from the Business Roundtables most recent call to action, both groups share some of the same principlesprimarily a focus on wellness and prevention as keystones to protect against future healthcare costs, Ghazal said.
This is the vision of the CEOs, she said. This is our own work product.
Chip Kahn, president of the Federation of American Hospitals, called the Business Roundtables initiative an important addition to the healthcare reform conversation.
I think realistically, covering all Americans is such a heavy lift that we need to do it within the context of current coverage, Kahn said. Trying to change everything could undermine the effort.