Healthcare experts at a Senate Finance Committee hearing offered a number of options for expanding employer-based insurance models to decrease the number of uninsured and help small businesses offer coverage.
Some employers have stopped offering health insurance altogether, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) said in a written statement. Since 2000, the share of nonelderly Americans with employer-based coverage has dropped from 69% to 60%.
Among smaller firms with three to nine workers, coverage has dropped from 58% to 45%, an indication that the health insurance market is losing ground with employers, Baucus said.
Making more affordable health insurance options available to small businesses and increasing the pooling mechanisms available to these businesses are two crucial steps for expanding access for the uninsured who work at small firms, said Ronald Williams, chairman and chief executive officer of Aetna.
Williams cited Aetnas New York City Community Plan, which provides insurance options specifically designed for small businesses with employees who work or live in New York City. The product includes no copays for preventive care, a variety of wellness programs, online access to health resources and most importantly, financial protection and peace of mind.
Mark Hall, a professor of law and public health with Wake Forest University, suggested placing people into large groups whose membership is not tied to health risk, and to limit the choice of plans within the group. This is currently how larger employer groups work, which is why they remain the best-functioning part of the market, he testified. -- by Jennifer Lubell