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

Imperial Palate

February 2015
Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Power Lunch at the Imperial.


Read more...

The Carbon Calculus

February 2015
Friday, January 23, 2015
BY KIM MOORE | OB RESEARCH EDITOR

Carbon pricing is gaining momentum in Oregon, sparking concern for energy-intensive businesses — but also opportunity to expand a homespun green economy.


Read more...

Old school: Paulsen's Pharmacy maintains old fashion ethos

The Latest
Thursday, December 18, 2014
121914-pharmacy-thumbBY MEGHAN NOLT

VIDEO: Under the radar — complete with a soda counter, the traditional Paulsen's Pharmacy looks to compete with big box retailers.


Read more...

Corner Office: Timothy Mitchell

January-Powerbook 2015
Saturday, December 13, 2014

A look-in on the life of Norris & Stevens' president, plus an abridged Powerlist for the best commercial real estate firms.


Read more...

Corner Office: Sheree Arntson

January-Powerbook 2015
Saturday, December 13, 2014

Checking in with the managing director of Arnerich Massena.


Read more...

Leading with the right brain

News
Tuesday, December 09, 2014
120914-manderson-thumbBY LINDA BAKER

On the eve of the Portland Ad Federation's Rosey Awards, Matt Anderson, CEO of Struck, talks about the transition from creative director to CEO, the Portland talent pool and whether data is the new black in the creative services sector.


Read more...

The Human Factor

February 2015
Monday, January 26, 2015
BY BRIAN LIBBY

Matt French opens up South Waterfront.


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