Yesterday the California Senate passed SB 562, The Healthy California Act. This bill would create the Healthy California Program to provide comprehensive universal single-payer health care coverage and a healthcare cost control system for the benefit of all residents of the state of California. It would be funded by a combination of employer and employee payroll taxes. Of the 33 developed nations in the world 32 of them have what is known as universal healthcare. The lone exception to this, of course, is the United States. Universal healthcare, however is not defined as government only healthcare, but can include both public and private insurance and medical providers. So if this bill actually passes the assembly and the financial aspects are resolved it would put California on the list of countries with universal healthcare. This would be a very unique situation. One of our states has universal health care but the country does not. But I think the bigger question for this blog is: “why don’t businesses embrace universal health care?”
And I’m not the only one questioning this. Warren Buffett has stated that other countries have gained a five or six point advantage over the United States because of healthcare spending by employers. The National Federation of Independent Business conducted a survey of small business priorities and problems and found that the cost of health insurance is the most severe problem facing American small business today. In fact 52% of small business owners identified it as a critical issue. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) puts the cost of healthcare in 2016 for employers with more than 500 workers at $4.28 per hour or 9% of the total compensation costs. For employers with 100 to 499 employees the insurance costs are $2.77 per hour worked or 8.5% of total compensation. Now some will say that this cost is due to the Affordable Care Act. But the increase under the Affordable Care Act for employers with more than 500 employees as compared with the cost in 2006 was 1%. For those employers with under 500 employees it was 2.5%. However this statistic does not reflect that many of the employers with under 500 employees did not offer health insurance in 2006. So why do we continue to put this burden on employers and why do they continue to fight to keep it?
Using the 2006 figures so that we do not factor in Obama care, if I were to propose an 8% tax on all employers with over 500 employees there would be riots in the streets. Yet that’s what employers were paying for healthcare. So if we were to take this 8% as a payment from each employer and add in the cost the employee paid could this be the beginning of universal healthcare for the United States. Think about it for a minute. Employers would no longer need to contact insurance companies, negotiate costs, and have someone in the company to oversee the program (an additional cost of a salary) nor have someone in Accounts Payable pay the bill. Would it have to be a federal program? Most countries that have universal healthcare have a combination of national and municipalities handling the programs. The tax would be on the federal level but the healthcare itself is provided on the local level since those are the ones that usually understand what the community requirements are.
Would this help us become more competitive in the world? Would it help employers become more financially solvent? Would it get health care for all the citizens of the United States? The answers to those questions, of course, remained unanswered as of today. But unless we begin to look into shifting the costs of health care away from employers we will never know.