The Future of Medical Benefits: A Report on EBRI's May 6, 1998, Policy Forum

Health Insurance Portability and Job Lock: Findings from the 1998 Health ConfidenceSurvey

August 1998, Vol. 19, No. 8
Paperback, 12 pp.
PDF, 66 kb
Employee Benefit Research Institute, 1998

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Executive Summary

The Future of Medical Benefits: A Report on EBRI's May 6, 1998, Policy Forum—Employers beware: pressures for comprehensive reform of the American system of health
benefits did not end with the defeat of the Clinton health plan in 1994. They just abated
temporarily, and will be back in the not-too-distant future. William Custer, an economist
at Georgia State University and Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI) Fellow,
delivered that warning at EBRI's May 6, 1998, policy forum on "The Future of Medical
Benefits." The topic, like many employee benefits issues, sparked a wide range of
views, but one thing was clear: upheaval in the world of medical benefits is not over yet.

Health Insurance Portability and Job Lock: Findings from the 1998 Health Confidence
Survey
—In 1996, 64 percent of the nonelderly population received health insurance through the
work place, either in their own name or through a family member. Policymakers have long
been concerned about the link between health insurance and the work place. Congress
originally addressed the issue of health insurance portability by passing the Consolidated
Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1985 (COBRA). The act requires employers with health
insurance plans to offer continued access to group health insurance to qualified
beneficiaries if they lose coverage as a result of a qualifying event. With the recent
growth in managed care penetration, policymakers have become more concerned about health
insurance portability. Job change is more likely to affect the health insurance status of
employees and their families under managed care than was the case under the
fee-for-service plans in which most workers were enrolled in the past. For example, many
workers are required to change doctors when they change health plans, whether or not they
change jobs. Policymakers recently addressed the issue of health insurance portability in
the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA).