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Your Thoughts: Decoupling Health Care From Employment

I am reminded every day that I am lucky to be married (some days more than others) but here is at least one reason why I’ll admit I am extremely lucky to be married: I have group health insurance. It doesn’t cost much. It gives me great coverage. And I’d probably be on my back or broke if it weren’t for the fact that I am married to a person that has a job that provides it.

The last plan I had under my own name ran out in August of last year. I was able to enroll under my wife’s insurance for $140/month. In December, we were on vacation and I slipped and hurt my back pretty badly. Four doctor appointments, prescription drugs, physical therapy and massages: $200 out of pocket. What it could have been? Thousands of dollars. And knowing me, I would have sought shortcuts to ease the financial pain.

Decoupling health care was one of the things that many people at the Employee Health Care Conference rejected out of hand. While the argument made on a holistic level was that employers (especially large employers) could push for innovation better than individuals could, most of the concrete reasons I’ve heard is that employers put a lot of money into the pot and that benefits employees.

There is little doubt that companies could drive more innovation in health care than individuals if they wanted to. That’s the problem though: outside of internal cost containment or strategy, none of these companies (even huge ones) have forced the insurer and health providers hands.

So if the only legitimate concern is money, why aren’t we talking more about the separation of employment from health care? What are your thoughts on it?