A majority of working Americans get health insurance through their employers. This approach worked when the economy was strong and businesses were profitable. The arrangements were simple – the cost of insurance was shared by the employer and the employee. However, over the past 20 years or so, the cost of insurance has increased, and both sides are being squeezed. Between 2000 and 2007, health insurance premiums increased by 76 percent. Employers must make the decision to pass those costs on to their bottom lines, ask their employees to pay a greater share, or drop coverage altogether. The choice was easier when the economy was doing well.
Every day, more and more Americans are losing their jobs and, consequently, their health insurance. Even those who still have jobs are finding they cannot afford to keep the insurance they have. How can business owners afford to keep paying more and more to provide insurance to their workers? How can employees afford to keep paying more for insurance when they are making less? The answer is that neither can.
Paying for health insurance shouldn’t force companies to go out of business, and it shouldn’t position working individuals and families to choose between paying for their health and their basic needs. The message to our decision-makers in Washington must be simple and clear: We need reform that guarantees everyone access to quality, affordable health care.
Bruce Horwitz is a board member for the Missouri Foundation for Health.