The United States is unique among economically advanced nations in its reliance on employers to provide health benefits voluntarily for workers and their families. Although it is well known that this system fails to reach millions of these individuals as well as others who have no connection to the work place, the system has other weaknesses. It also has many advantages. Because most proposals for health care reform assume some continued role for employers, this book makes an important contribution by describing the strength and limitations of the current system of employment-based health benefits. It provides the data and analysis needed to understand the historical, social, and economic dynamics that have shaped present-day arrangements and outlines what might be done to overcome some of the access, value, and equity problems associated with current employer, insurer, and government policies and practices. Health insurance terminology is often perplexing, and this volume defines essential concepts clearly and carefully.
Using an array of primary sources, it provides a store of information on who is covered for what services at what costs, on how programs vary by employer size and industry, and on what governments do--and do not do--to oversee employment-based health programs. A case study adapted from real organizations' experiences illustrates some of the practical challenges in designing, managing, and revising benefit programs. The sometimes unintended and unwanted consequences of employer practices for workers and health care providers are explored. Understanding the concepts of risk, biased risk selection, and risk segmentation is fundamental to sound health care reform. This volume thoroughly examines these key concepts and how they complicate efforts to achieve efficiency and equity in health coverage and health care. With health care reform at the forefront of public attention, this volume will be important to policymakers and regulators, employee benefit managers and other executives, trade associations, and decisionmakers in the health insurance industry, as well as analysts, researchers, and students of health policy.