Executives Skeptical of Candidates’ Health Plans

By Staff Report

Sep. 16, 2008

Nearly three-quarters of corporate benefit executives say that taxing employees on the value of employer-provided health care benefit programs would have a negative effect on employees, according to a new survey.

Such a proposal is part of the health care reform platform endorsed by Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, the Republican Party’s presidential candidate. McCain has proposed giving all taxpayers tax credits to offset the cost of health insurance premiums. The tax credit would be $2,500 for individual coverage and $5,000 for family coverage.

In turn, employees who receive coverage from their employers would be taxed on employer-paid premiums. McCain has said such a change in tax law would result in more equity between those who receive coverage from their employers and those who buy coverage on their own and under current law receive no tax breaks for obtaining the coverage.

But according to the survey conducted by the law firm Miller & Chevalier Chartered and the American Benefits Council, both based in Washington, 74 percent of corporate benefit executives said such a change would have a negative impact on employees.

A substantial number, 46 percent, of benefit executives also said requiring employers to offer health care coverage or pay a new tax—an idea endorsed by Democratic Party presidential nominee Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois—would have a strong negative effect on their workforces.

“This feedback should be a wake-up call to our political leaders that the people responsible for structuring and managing employer-sponsored health plans … are deeply skeptical about key elements of both presidential candidates’ reform proposals. Rather than taxing workers’ health benefits [or] compelling employers to provide coverage they can’t afford, candidates should focus on initiatives to control costs and promote top-quality care,” said American Benefits Council President James A. Klein in a statement.

The survey is based on the responses of 187 benefits executives.

The survey is available at or

Filed by Jerry Geisel of Business Insurance, a sister publication of Workforce Management. To comment, e-mail

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