I know what you’re thinking: the irony of a health care lobbyist getting sick! I've always prided myself for being a healthy, young, vibrant person. Well, recently I was hit with a dose of reality (or maybe its old age?) and I had a hives outbreak.
As a health care lobbyist, I felt my worlds collide. Sitting in my physician’s office I was grateful to have health insurance and to be worry free about whether I could afford treatment.
This experience gave me a whole new perspective on the thought that my employer-sponsored health coverage could soon be taxed, an issue that I lobby on. If Congress changes the tax treatment of employer-sponsored health care coverage it could mean my benefit options and choices will be limited, I could see an increase in the cost of my health care, including higher deductibles for care and not to mention reduced or limited access to specialists.
This last aspect really hit home for me since as a result of my hives outbreak, I now have to see at least three specialists to figure out what caused my recent allergic reaction. I couldn’t imagine foregoing care or not figuring out what was the cause of my allergic reaction because I couldn’t afford it.
To add to this conundrum, changes to the tax treatment of employer-sponsored health plans will disproportionately affect women. This is because employers with a predominantly female workforce typically have higher costs for health care coverage. This means that those health care plans will be impacted first once tax changes are made to employer-sponsored health coverage. This compounded with increasing health care costs does not bode well for me.
Needless to say, I’ve gained a whole new level of appreciation for health care. One of the many benefits of employer-sponsored health coverage that is not widely discussed is that employers can leverage economies of scale to negotiate prices, offer lower premiums and lower deductibles to employees than if each employee were to purchase coverage in the individual market.
During my recent experience, I paid particular attention to the minimal costs of my deductibles and prescriptions since I saw multiple physicians and needed several different prescriptions. I couldn’t imagine what those fees would have been without my current health insurance plan.
I’m pretty certain that I’m not the only employee that likes (and appreciates) my employer-sponsored health plan. There are over 178 million Americans that have health insurance through employers. It is evident that American employees values their current employer health benefits. Now is not the time for Congress to implement any new taxes that will disrupt or drive up costs for health care coverage.
While I never did learn what caused my allergic reaction, I recently concluded that the mere thought of taxing my health care gave me hives.
Chatrane Birbal is senior advisor, government relations, at the Society for Human Resource Management.
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