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Employers Willing to Do More to Cover Workers

Despite the rapidly rising costs of health coverage, a new study based on national survey data finds that two-thirds of U.S. employers—including those who provide health benefits and those who do not—either strongly or somewhat agree that all employers should share in the cost of health insurance for employees, either by covering their own workers or by contributing to a fund to cover the uninsured.

A majority of employers is also willing to undertake administrative changes designed to expand coverage—for example, reducing an eligible employee's withholding tax by the amount of any available health insurance tax credit.

"Rather than getting out of the game, employers appear willing to at least consider small changes that might make it easier to stay in," say the study's authors, who are based at the Center for Studying Health System Change and The Commonwealth Fund. The share of U.S. firms offering health benefits has fallen in recent years, from 69 percent in 2000 to 60 percent in 2005.

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Employers appear to be less enthusiastic about taking on a greater financial commitment to expand insurance coverage. Still, about half of firms would be very or somewhat interested in the possibility of covering workers and their dependents—and willing to pick up at least part of the monthly premium—through the same insurance program that covers their state's public employees or the federal program that covers members of Congress. Small employers were significantly more likely than large firms—62 percent versus 41 percent—to express interest in such an option.

The study's findings, which were published in the November/December issue of Health Affairs, were based on a special Fund-supported supplement to the 2005 Kaiser Family Foundation/Health Research and Educational Trust survey of employer health benefits.

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