KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Employers, Unions Ask For Greater Health Care Price Transparency

Big employers and unions are asking insurers and health care providers for greater price transparency when it comes to how much each pays for health care.

Kaiser Health News: Employers, Unions Jointly Demand Health Care Price Transparency
Employees who feel completely mystified by the prices they're charged for medical procedures might be surprised to know their employers feel the same way. On Thursday, a consortium of major companies and labor unions, including GE, Wal-Mart, Boeing and the AFL-CIO issued a manifesto demanding price transparency from both health care providers and insurance companies. Consumers "have the right to know the price and quality of their health care choices," the consortium said in a statement -- especially as health care costs continue to rise and high-deductible health care plans become more common (Mitchell, 11/1).

Modern Healthcare: Groups Urge Pricing Transparency In Health Care
Several employer groups across the country are calling on health plans and healthcare providers to make health care pricing more readily available to their employees and consumers by 2014. Catalyst for Payment Reform -- a not-for-profit organization of large employers and health care buyers that includes 3M, Delta Airlines, Dow Chemical Co., the Walt Disney Co. and Xerox Corp. -- is directing the effort. In a statement to health plans and health care providers, Catalyst for Payment Reform calls for wider availability of price data for those who use and pay for health care. The San Francisco-based group also designed certain specifications that employers and consumer groups can use to evaluate tools that are currently available (Zigmond, 11/1).

In the meantime, health coverage for workers who work for small businesses is declining, a new study finds --

Modern Healthcare: Employer-Based Health Coverage Declining At Small Firms, Study Finds
Although most Americans still receive health insurance coverage through their employers, new findings from the Commonwealth Fund show that fewer than half of U.S. employees in small firms were eligible for and were offered health insurance through their jobs in 2010, compared with 58 percent in 2003. From 2001 to 2011, the study noted, the portion of individuals under the age of 65 who were covered by employer health plans fell to 57 percent from 68 percent. During this period, fewer workers in small firms -- or those with 50 or fewer workers -- were offered health insurance, were eligible to enroll in their company's health plans, and were actually enrolled. About 49 percent of employees in small firms were both eligible and offered such coverage in 2010 (Zigmond, 11/1).

Politico Pro: Commonwealth: Small Business Workers Losing Coverage
A new report from the Commonwealth Fund finds that the number of workers with health insurance in small businesses is shrinking -- and makes the case that the Affordable Care Act can help. According to Commonwealth, only 33 percent of workers in small businesses with fewer than 50 workers received health benefits through their employers in 2010, down from 42 percent in 2003. Fifty-five percent of workers in companies with 50 to 99 employees were enrolled in their companies’ insurance plans in 2010, and 71 percent of workers in companies with 100 or more people had insurance through their job. For companies with fewer than 50 employees in 2010, 49 percent of employees were offered insurance and were eligible for it -- a drop from 58 percent in 2003. But at larger companies with 100 or more employees, about 90 percent of the workers were both offered insurance and eligible for it, a number that stayed the same in both 2003 and 2010 (Smith, 11/1).

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