What’s the cure to our health care system?

| Print |  Email
Archives - September 2006
Friday, September 01, 2006

s_Robin

Each year, more and more businesses drop their employee health care coverage because they can’t afford health plans. Each year, more and more Americans — almost 50 million now — become uninsured because they can’t afford health plans. 

From 2000-2005, the percentage of businesses offering health care dropped from 69% to 60%, driven largely by a significant decline in participation from small business. In an economy dominated by small businesses such as Oregon’s, this contributes to the 600,000 uninsured people in the state.

But it’s easy to glaze over statistics. Listen instead to Umpqua Dairy COO Steve Feldkamp:

“Health care costs have the ability to do in the company.”

This is a 75-year-old family-owned business that employs 200 people — one of the top employers in Roseburg. In the past five years, health care costs for Umpqua Dairy have doubled; it now costs the company $750 per employee for a family policy, with health care accounting for almost 16% of the dairy’s expenses.

Feldkamp says that wages are being held back by escalating costs. “Our health care package has grown, but the take-home pay hasn’t increased that much. You can’t afford to do it all.”

He says one of the thorniest topics this year with his union was the portion of health care costs employees would shoulder. Until now, the company paid the entire cost for workers and their families because it wanted to do the right thing and remain competitive. But, “In this day and age, because costs have gotten so large, at some point you have to pass a portion of it on,” Feldkamp says.

What’s the cure? “I’ve never been in favor of the government coming in and fixing things,” he says. “I’ve always thought that a free market economy is the best direction for this country and ourselves. However…this burden has become so big that I’m not sure how we go about fixing it on our own.”

Maybe one cure is to end employer-based health insurance, which could give both cost-crushed businesses and the millions of Americans with no health coverage a chance to thrive.

Labor leader Andy Stern, head of the 1.8 million member Service Employees International Union, created a stir when he said in the Wall Street Journal recently: “The employer-based system of health coverage is over. This may sound shocking, coming from a union leader...but the system is collapsing.”

The Heritage Foundation proposes offering everyone the same tax break for health insurance that companies get, doing away with the employer-based model and giving financial assistance directly to individuals to buy health insurance. The National Small Business Association, a lobbying group, has proposed similar ideas.

Whatever the fix, one thing is clear. Business needs to lead the effort to get itself out from under the unpredictable and spiking health care costs, and toward a system that allows all of us to afford a basic level of health coverage — no matter where we work, or if we lose our jobs. The political world has proven itself incapable of doing it.

In this issue, we explore one of those efforts — former governor John Kitzhaber’s Archimedes Movement — and the challenges it faces. There are other dedicated, concerned people in Oregon also looking for a solution.

We need to find one fast. Our businesses —  and our lives —  are at stake.

— Robin Doussard
This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

 

More Articles

The Green Paradox

June 2015
Friday, May 22, 2015
BY EMILY LIEDEL

Inside the topsy-turvy world of corporate sustainability rankings.


Read more...

Intrepid reporter checks out ZoomCare rebrand

The Latest
Wednesday, May 27, 2015
dentistthumbPHOTOS BY JASON E. KAPLAN

Like all good journalists, OB editorial staff typically eschew freebies. But health care costs being what they are, digital news editor Jacob Palmer couldn't resist ZoomCare's offer of a three-in-one (cleaning, exam, whitening) dental office visit, guaranteed to take no more than 57 minutes. 


Read more...

100 Best Green Workplaces announced

News
Wednesday, May 27, 2015
OBM-100-best-Green-logo-2015-1000pxwBY LINDA BAKER | EDITOR

More than 250 people turned out today for Oregon Business magazine’s seventh annual celebration of the 100 Best Green Companies to Work For in Oregon.


Read more...

Up in the Air

June 2015
Friday, May 22, 2015
BY ANNIE ELLISON

Portland tech veteran Ben Berry is leaving his post as Portland’s chief technology officer for a full-time role producing unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) aimed at first responders and the military. Berry’s AirShip Technologies Group is poised to be on the ground floor of an industry that will supply drones to as many as 100,000 police, fire and emergency agencies nationwide. He reveals the plan for takeoff.


Read more...

The 5 highest revenue-generating parks in Oregon

The Latest
Thursday, June 11, 2015
parksthumbBY JACOB PALMER | DIGITAL NEWS EDITOR

In 2014, total revenue for camping and day use in Oregon State Parks was a little more than $17 million. That figure may even higher this year "because we've had exceptionally nice weather," Hughes says.


Read more...

Eco Zoned

June 2015
Friday, May 22, 2015
BY HANNAH WALLACE

Travelers have always come to Oregon for its natural beauty. But will the increasing popularity of agritourism, European-style hiking getaways and forest resorts relax Oregon's notoriously strict land-use laws?


Read more...

Fixing Oregon’s broken roads

The Latest
Tuesday, June 09, 2015
RUCCostComparison rev4-30BY KIM MOORE | RESEARCH EDITOR

The technology at the center of Oregon’s road usage fee reform.


Read more...
Oregon Business magazinetitle-sponsored-links-02
SPONSORED LINKS