Business Seeks Strength in Numbers to Combat Rising Health Care Costs

Insurance premiums will increase fairly dramatically for most employers in 2002, so many are banding together to create coalitions to leverage buying power for their insurance policies.

Last year employer-paid health care premiums rose 11 percent - far outpacing the rate of inflation.

The bite that insurance premiums take out of company budgets have a pattern of growing bigger every year, and employers are braced for more rate increases in 2002.

Rising health care costs have rekindled interest among business leaders to join forces and use their combined buying leverage to demand quality and sustainable savings. Regional employer health care coalitions are joining with groups like the National Business Coalition on Health to strengthen their effect on local markets and better manage health care quality.

"Health care, like politics, is local," said Gregg Lehman, president and CEO of NBCH. "While Washington may be the center of activity for policy decisions about health care, it is in the local markets that problems with cost, quality and access to healthcare are acutely felt."

That's why employers are joining non-profit business coalitions all over the country. By pooling their experience and interests, they can better attack issues such as rising health and worker's compensation insurance rates, proposed legislative initiatives that affect how they buy insurance, and the lack of comparable health care quality data.

NBCH, for example, includes more than 7,000 large and small businesses nationwide representing more than 34 million employees and their families.

edited by Sandy Smith ([email protected])

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