Corporate executives are concerned about three main issues when it comes to health care:

1. Maintaining ERISA’s national standards,
2. Focusing on health care quality and cost, and
3. Worrying about negative impacts of changing tax treatment for employer health benefits.

The Miller & Chevalier/American Benefits Council Corporate Health Care Policy Forecast surveyed American employers in August 2008. The key findings of the survey are:

…87% of respondents think employees would prefer to get health insurance through employers even if similarly priced options were available through other sources.

…Support for maintaining ERISA is solid at 91%. 84% of corporate execs are against state-level regulation of health plans.

…With costs the #1 issue of concern to corporate management, several strategies are seen to have a positive impact. these areas include: pay for performance and ways of tying quality to reimbursement, adopting information technology in health care, reporting health quality outcomes, being transparent about health care costs, and adopting wellness programs, which over 9 in 10 employers have done.

Regarding the Presidential platforms for health reform, there is a big negative perception on John McCain’s proposal to repeal the employee tax exclusion for employer-sponsored health benefits. 74% of execs believe the repeal would have a negative impact on their employee population. 1 in 3 would immediately reduce benefits.

Some methodology: In August 2008, Miller & Chevalier and the American Benefits Council polled 3,146 corporate benefit execs and received 187 completed responses, for a 5.94% response rate. 71% of companies covered over 10,000 employees. 27% covered over 50,000 individuals. 46% of respondents identified themselves as Republicans, 25% identified themselves as Democrats and 30% identified themselves as Independents.

Health Populi’s Hot Points: The American Benefits Council, which represents employers covering about 100 million Americans, is committed to preserving ERISA. ERISA, The Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974, regulates pension and employee benefit plans. It’s ERISA’s state preemption provision that employers want to preserve.

“Preemption” means that ERISA overrides state laws related to employer-sponsored benefits. This simplifies life for corporations in that, instead of having to deal with 50 separate states’ laws for benefits, ERISA allows companies to streamline administration and offer uniform benefits across the U.S.

According to Miller Chevalier’s/ABC’s survey, ERISA is a deal-breaker in terms of health reform among the nation’s largest employers. Shaking up this arrangement is a cornerstone of John McCain’s health reform platform. Can ERISA survive the 2008 election after 34 years of corporate adaptation to the law? John McCain sees such a change as a creative disruption for health reform. Those who oppose it see it as the beginning of the end of the employer-sponsored benefit.