Employment-based health insurance provides health care for 160 million Americans. But the number of employers sponsoring coverage and the proportion of employees taking benefits when they are offered are both dropping. Employment-based insurance has been charged with causing “job-lock,” the unwillingness of workers to change jobs even when other jobs beckon. Yet agreement on an alternative to provide health insurance to workers and their families seems no nearer today than it has for generations.
On June 16, the Brookings Institution and the New America Foundation hosted the first forum in a series to examine whether employment-based health insurance should and will survive. Andrew Stern, president of the Service Employees International Union, opened the session with a presentation on the health policy positions of the nation’s largest independent union. Brookings Senior Fellow Henry Aaron moderated. A second panel presented the employer perspective, with presentations by Costco senior vice president John Matthews and National Small Business Association president Todd McCracken. Len Nichols of the New America Foundation moderated the second panel.