EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Merrimack Valley

August 16, 2009

Keeping current insurance depends on employer

Will people be able to keep their own, current health insurance plans under the health care reform being considered in Congress?

Like so much else involved in health care reform, the answer depends on interpretation.

There's nothing in the health reform plans under consideration that directly eliminates employer-provided health insurance. Both the House version of health care reform — H.R. 3200, the America's Affordable Health Choices Act of 2009 — and the Senate version from the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee envision the continuation of employer-provided, private insurance backed up by a government-run, "public option" health insurance plan.

"That's the intent, to build on employer-sponsored insurance," said Edwin Park, senior fellow with the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. "If you're getting coverage now through your employer and your employer continues to offer, you'll get your coverage that way."

The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities examines and advocates for "fiscal policy and public programs that affect low- and moderate-income families and individuals." It is funded by a variety of sources with liberal leanings, including the George Soros-led Democracy Alliance. The center supports the principles of health care reform, but has not endorsed a specific reform proposal.

There's nothing in any version of health care reform legislation that eliminates private health insurance or compels employers to drop their employees' insurance in favor of a public plan.

But opponents of the proposed legislation claim that will be the likely effect.

Critics say the very existence of a government-run, public health insurance option will drive private insurers out of the market and prompt employers to drop their employees' health coverage, forcing them into the public plan.

Under health reform, employers above a minimum number of employees will be required to provide health insurance or face a penalty. The amount of the penalty will depend on the size of the business.

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