EMPLOYEE BENEFITS

States Step Into Debate Over Health Care

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March 15, 2005--As the national debate over health care continues, many state governments like those in California and Arizona have stepped in to try and force some solutions for its uninsured population. As politicians debate topics like state-run universal coverage, small-business owners everywhere have tuned in to see how they might be affected.

Studies continue to show that fewer and fewer Americans receive health care coverage through their employers. The ranks of uninsured Americans under the age of 65 grew 5.1 million from 2000 to 2003 largely due to declines in employer-sponsored insurance, according to the Kaiser Commission on Medicaid and the Uninsured.

That's why states like California, which has more than six million uninsured residents, are considering mandated health care programs. Members of California's state assembly are currently debating the merits of its proposed Universal Health Act that would require Californians to obtain health care coverage similar to how motorists have to obtain auto insurance.

While no one seems to dispute the need to provide affordable health care coverage, the question no one seems to have an answer for is who is going to pay for it, with small businesses at the forefront of the issue.

Arizona's legislature is currently discussing bills that would both require employees to identify employers who fail to provide health care plans and actually charge those employers if more than 100 of their employees are receiving state-funded health care, according to the Society for Human Resource Management.

Business organizations like the California Chamber of Commerce and the Arizona chapter of the National Federation for Independent Business (NFIB) are opposed to state-mandated coverage that would be supported in part by its members.

"Our small-business owners are not being stingy," said Michelle Bolton, director of the Arizona chapter of NFIB. "They would love to offer health care benefits, but for many it would be impossible to pay for it and remain in business."

On a national scale, President Bush continues to promote the use of Health Savings Accounts, which participants can make pre-tax contributions to fund. Because the plans have high deductibles and push most of the costs to the participants, they are seen as more affordable options for small businesses than traditional health plans.

Last updated: Mar 14, 2005

DARREN DAHL

Darren Dahl is a contributing editor at Inc. magazine, which he has written for since 2004. He also works as a collaborative writer and editor and has partnered with several high-profile authors. Dahl lives in Asheville, North Carolina.




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