Big business targets health care reform

Janet Babin May 7, 2007
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Big business targets health care reform

Janet Babin May 7, 2007
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KAI RYSSDAL: Health care costs are high. We all know that. But it seems they’ve gotten to a point where more businesses are ready to do something.

Today, a group of Fortune 500 CEOs announced their support for health care reform, as Janet Babin reports from North Carolina Public Radio.


JANET BABIN: Safeway CEO Steve Burd created the business coalition. One reason why? Money.

He says that by next year, the average Fortune 500 company will face employee health care bills that exceed its net income.

On a webcast at Safeway online, Burd explained why company health care costs are rising:

STEVE BURD: As more people become uninsured, those of us that insure our employee base, we pay more for insurance.

The newly-formed Coalition to Advance Health Care Reform draws members from almost three dozen Fortune 500 companies — like General Mills, Pepsi and Aetna.

The Coalition mission: mandatory market-based health insurance with no exclusions for pre-existing conditions, financial assistance for low income people, and incentives that would promote healthy lifestyles.

But while Burd and his coalition try to reinvent health care, many of his own company’s hourly employees have to wait months before they can get coverage. That’s the result of a union contract tussle a few years ago.

Rick Wartzman is a senior fellow at the New America Foundation, a public policy think tank:

RICK WARTZMAN: It’s a little disingenuous on his part to be calling for universal coverage on the one hand, and then on the other hand, to have his employees wait 18 months and their families 30 months to get health coverage.

Still, Wartzman says Burd and the coalition are at least trying to find a way to extend coverage to thousands of uninsured workers.

I’m Janet Babin for Marketplace.

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