January 12, 2009
For additional information:
Jason Hammersla

Council issues landmark health care reform proposal

'Condition Critical' offers 44 specific recommendations for legislative consideration

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Over the past weeks and months — and with the construction of a mammoth economic stimulus package — the issue of health care reform has taken a back seat to general economic recovery. The American Benefits Council argues, however, that national health care reform and a strong economy are inextricably linked," Council president James A. Klein said today.

"We explicitly reject the claim that employers want to exit the health care system. To the contrary, the path to reforming the system depends on expanding employer-sponsored coverage," Klein said.

"The Council's new report, Condition Critical: Ten Prescriptions for Reforming Health Care Quality, Cost and Coverage, makes the case that reform can be achieved most efficiently by working through the established, effective employer-sponsored benefits framework," said Wilma Schopp, global lead, compensation, benefits and human resources operations for Monsanto Company and chair of the Council's Health Reform Task Force. "Our proposal is unique in that it provides 44 specific policy recommendations that can be implemented quickly, perhaps even as part of the stimulus measure," Schopp said.

These specific recommendations are grouped into ten prescriptions, covering a wide range of controversial topics including federal preemption, individual mandates and tax policy:

  1. Build on what works — the voluntary employer-based health care system.
  2. Maintain a federal framework using a single set of federal rules and maintaining the fundamental concepts and provisions of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA).
  3. Improve the quality and efficiency of health care by creating a nationwide interoperable health information network.
  4. Provide clear, reliable information to make better health care decisions, allowing consumers to determine where to find those providers who have a proven record of delivering high quality care.
  5. Make health coverage an individual obligation for all Americans — each person has an obligation to obtain at least a basic level of coverage, accompanied by income-based premium subsidies to make health coverage affordable for lower-income individuals.
  6. Establish a minimum standard for quality, affordable health coverage as a benchmark for whether individuals have met their health coverage obligation, established by a broad multi-stakeholder advisory panel.
  7. Reform the individual insurance marketplace for those who do not have access to employer-based coverage.
  8. Strengthen state safety-net health insurance programs, including establishing a federal eligibility floor for coverage of adults under Medicaid and premium subsidy programs for individuals eligible for coverage.
  9. Improve tax policy to make health coverage more affordable and accessible — tax rules must continue to permit employers to deduct health benefit costs and allow employer-sponsored coverage to be tax excludable to workers and retirees.
  10. Enable employers and employees to develop retiree health care solutions, allowing a wider range of options to fund retiree health care needs.

The Council's prescriptions sought to give equal weight to coverage, quality and cost issues. "During the 2008 presidential campaign and in prior health reform efforts, debate has focused on expanding coverage. While expanding coverage is vital, health care coverage must be aligned with higher quality and affordability," Klein said.

"As we move into a new political era, it is important that lawmakers aim for a sustainable future health care system," Klein said. "However, we should also look to history and recognize that lasting reform comes only through an inclusive process that considers the needs of all stakeholders. It is the Council's hope that our proposal is a meaningful part of the solution."

Also included with today's report:

For more information, or to arrange an interview with Council staff, please contact Jason Hammersla, Council director of communications, at or by phone at 202-289-6700 (office) or (202) 253-5458 (cell).

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The American Benefits Council is the national trade association for companies concerned about federal legislation and regulations affecting all aspects of the employee benefits system. The Councils member's represent the entire spectrum of the private employee benefits community and either sponsor directly or administer retirement and health plans covering more than 100 million Americans.