Thursday, December 03, 2009

Sebelius Statement on Benefits of Health Insurance Reform for Businesses

HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius today highlighted the benefits of health insurance reform for businesses and released a new fact sheet regarding a recent analysis from the Congressional Budget Office.

"Businesses across the country are struggling under the weight of high health care costs," Secretary Sebelius said. "Health insurance reform will help lift this burden, help businesses prosper, and ensure workers have the affordable, quality health care they need."

A fact sheet regarding the analysis is included below.

Fact Sheet: New CBO Analysis Confirms Benefits of Health Insurance Reform for Businesses

American businesses know the health care status quo is unacceptable. Since 2000, premiums have more than doubled, a rate three times faster than the growth in wages. Between 2000 and 2009, the percentage of firms offering coverage fell from 69 to 60, with much of that drop occurring in the past year alone. Small businesses in particular struggle under the current health care system. For firms employing less than 10 workers, the erosion in coverage is striking -- from 57 percent offering coverage in 2000 to 46 percent offering coverage in 2009. If we do nothing, over the next ten years, health care costs for large businesses are projected to reach $28,530 per employee, a 116 percent increase from 2009.

A new analysis by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) affirms that businesses' health insurance costs will be lower under health insurance reform -- even though the analysis does not take into account the full range of policies that will benefit businesses.

Health Insurance Premiums for Businesses According to CBO. In a November 30 letter to Senator Evan Bayh, CBO assesses the impact of the Patient Protection and Affordability Act on premiums for the individual, small-group, and large group markets. In 2016, CBO estimates that 159 million or 83 percent of privately insured people will be insured through employers.

Premiums for small business will go down. Small businesses are likely to see premiums drop by 1 to 4 percent under the proposal due to lower prices. These lower prices come from:

-- Lower administrative overhead. Right now, each small business
has to consult with a broker or hire someone to collate plan
information, assist employees with decisions, and handle issues as they
arise. Under reform, in the exchange, there will be people whose job it
is to provide plan information and facilitate enrollment. The exchange
centralizes what is otherwise a process that is extremely duplicative,
streamlining administrative costs and lowering premiums.
-- Greater competition. CBO attributes savings to "providing a
centralized marketplace in which consumers could compare the premiums of
relatively standardized insurance products." This includes competitive
pressure from a public health insurance option.
-- Administrative simplification. Physicians spend on average about
140 hours and $68,000 a year just dealing with health insurance
bureaucracy. By simplifying and standardizing paperwork and
computerizing medical records, doctors will be able to focus on caring
for their patients instead of dealing with bureaucracy. CBO estimates
nearly $20 billion in Federal savings over 10 years, with additional
savings accruing to businesses and families.

Up to 3 percent premium savings as the risk pool for employer-based coverage improves. Today, businesses have seen their premiums skyrocket every year, with many facing double digit percentage increases in their premiums. Health insurance reform will stop this trend.

With nearly 30 million additional Americans gaining health insurance, the purchasing pool for businesses will expand and, largely, improve. Big businesses will save from 0 to 3 percent on premiums due to the changing risk pool while small businesses could save 1 percent on

Better options for small businesses. Small businesses would gain access to the health insurance exchanges and new benefit options and tax credits under reform.

-- 3.6 million small businesses could qualify for a tax credit to
help pay their premiums.[vii] An estimated 12 percent of people insured
through small businesses will qualify for tax credits that lower
premiums by 8 to 11 percent. This translates into $620 to $860 for
individuals and $1,540 to $2,120 for families assuming that the coverage
is comparable to what they get today.
-- Today, small businesses often have coverage that has high
deductibles and gap-ridden benefits. The legislation offers such
businesses better options that CBO assumes businesses will take. Such
better coverage has premiums that are 0 to 3 percent higher than the
average plans today, but will save money for employees by ensuring they
are not forced to pay high out-of-pocket costs for services not covered
by their current insurance.
-- In the current health insurance system, small businesses may see
premiums skyrocket if just one or two workers fall ill and accumulate
high medical costs. Health insurance reform will prevent insurance
discrimination based on health status, meaning that small businesses
will no longer be unfairly penalized if a worker falls ill.

9 to 12 percent premium savings for high-premium plans under current law. By assessing high-cost plans, the excise tax encourages businesses and individuals to streamline coverage, leading to lower premiums over time.

-- CBO estimates that the 19 percent of people in employer-coverage
in high-cost plans today will pay 9 to 12 percent less under reform.
This translates to premium savings of at least $835 for single and
$2,070 family policies.
-- This could yield increases in workers wages, by around $70
billion in 2019.

Nearly $10 billion in savings for small businesses.

-- Under current law, CBO estimates premiums to be $7,800 for
single policies and $19,300 for families in the small group market.
-- Small businesses that opt for comparable coverage under reform
could save up to $390 for single policies and $965 for family policies.
Assuming all 25 million people insured through small business save at
least $390 (more for families), this will yield nearly $10 billion in
savings in 2016 alone.
-- Additional savings will accrue to low-wage, small businesses
that newly offer coverage in the exchange. CBO estimates that roughly
12 percent of people in the small group market would get the credit
which would reduce premiums by about 10 percent in 2016. Multiplying
this by the population and average premiums in the report, this suggests
that about one and a half million people would save roughly $780 per
person on premiums in 2016.
-- Even those that CBO estimates will "buy-up" will save, paying
$100 less per family for coverage that is more protective.

At least $13.4 billion in savings for large businesses.

-- Under current law, CBO estimates premiums to be $7,400 for
single policies and $20,300 for families in the large group market.
-- CBO estimates that, under reform, large business premiums will
drop by $100 per single policy and $200 per family policy. With 134
million people enrolled in such coverage, this translates into at least
$13.4 billion in savings in 2016 alone.

Businesses can keep what they have.

-- CBO affirms that any proposed benefit mandates would not affect
the small or large group markets: "The requirement would have relatively
little effect on premiums in the small group market, however, because
most policies sold in that market already cover those services and would
continue to cover them under current law."
-- CBO also affirms the effectiveness of the grandfather policy:
"Further, small group policies that are maintained continuously would be
grandfathered under the proposal."
-- In the large group market, CBO affirms that "[Benefit]
requirements would have no significant effect on premiums in the large
group market."

No cost-shifting to the employer-based insurance market.

-- CBO states: "... CBO's assessment is that the legislation would
have minimal effects on private-sector premiums via cost shifting."

Additional Policies To Benefit Businesses. CBO does not include in its analysis several additional policies in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act that would benefit businesses.

Reinsurance for businesses that cover early retiree plans.

-- The proportion of employers that offer retiree coverage has been
declining precipitously over time, from 66 percent in 1988 to 29 percent
in 2009.
-- The proposal would provide a time-limited, Federal reinsurance
program to cover some of the cost of covering early retirees. This
translates to savings of up to $1,200 off the premium of every family
plan offered by that company.

Policies to slow health care cost growth.

-- Insurance oversight: In recent years, several states' insurance
commissioners have rejected unjustifiably high premium increases in the
small group and individual insurance markets. Health insurance reform
will allow insurance commissioners to continue to play this important
role and require transparency and oversight of premium increases.
-- Delivery system reform. Health insurance reform will invest in
care innovations such as accountable care organizations, make healthcare
providers more accountable and efficient through value-based purchasing,
and improve quality and patient safety, including reducing preventable
readmissions. A recent report by the Business Roundtable found that if
many of the delivery system reforms were adopted by the private sector,
large businesses could save $3,000 per employee by 2019.
-- Lowers expensive drug costs. Biologic drugs are some of the most
expensive drugs on the market, and yet there is no streamlined avenue to
get generics on the market to provide lower-cost alternatives. Reform
will create an expedited process to make generic biologic drugs
available, significantly lowering drug costs.

Immediate benefits. While the CBO report provides savings estimates for 2016, several of the policies discussed above would take effect immediately, including early retiree reinsurance, administrative simplification, small business tax credits, and increased oversight of the insurance industry.

Benefits to Businesses Beyond Lower Costs. CBO focused exclusively on health insurance premiums which are critical to businesses. There would be other benefits of health reform for businesses as well.

Improved workplace productivity.

-- The Institute of Medicine found that lost productivity due to
untreated illness among uninsured workers cost businesses between $75
billion and $150 billion per year. Expanding coverage to the uninsured
will create a more productive workforce.
-- Current job-lock (inability to leave current employment if it
will result in loss of health insurance) has been demonstrated to hurt
the economy through reduced productivity, and prevents an employee from
taking a job with potentially higher wages. By ending limitations on
coverage based on pre-existing conditions and expanding portable
coverage options through the health insurance exchange, reform will
increase the flexibility and productivity of the workforce.

New jobs.

-- Bringing down the cost of healthcare will enable investments in
business and job creation. The President's Council of Economic Advisers
(CEA) estimated that if the annual growth rate of health spending slows
by 1.5 percentage point, new jobs could rise by 500,000.
-- The health insurance exchange will expand options for coverage,
making small businesses a more attractive place for people to work, and
encouraging people to start up businesses of their own.
-- Health insurance reform could save 80,000 jobs in the small
business sector by 2019 and increase take-home pay by almost $30

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