Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

All-Employers Insurance Backed Mcdonnell Executive Testifies on Health Care to Key House Panel

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

All-Employers Insurance Backed Mcdonnell Executive Testifies on Health Care to Key House Panel

Article excerpt

All employers should be required to pay for health-care insurance for their workers to assure coverage of all Americans, a McDonnell Douglas Corp. executive told Congress Thursday.

An employer-based system cannot work if individuals have unlimited access to health care but that care is financed only by employers who volunteer, said Michael R. Becker, vice president for employee benefits of the defense contractor, based in St. Louis. He testified before the House Ways and Means Committee on behalf of a coalition of 20 of the nation's largest businesses.

While supporting a key concept of President Bill Clinton's health-care reforms, Becker said McDonnell and the other companies were not endorsing Clinton's plan or any of the other plans before Congress.

But the McDonnell-led coalition's position was more positive - from the White House's point of view - than the stances of two other business groups:

On Thursday, a spokesman for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce told the House committee that Clinton's version of an employer requirement to pay 80 percent of costs would be so costly that it "cannot even be used as a starting point" in the health-care debate.

On Wednesday, the Business Roundtable of 200 top corporations rejected lobbying by Hillary Rodham Clinton and gave a boost to a rival plan put forth by Rep. Jim Cooper, D-Tenn. It does not require employers to pay for health-insurance coverage for their workers.

The plan to require employers to provide 80 percent of insurance coverage is one of the most controversial elements of Clinton's reforms and deeply divides corporate America.

Multinational corporations - such as Chrysler and Ford, IBM and McDonnell Douglas - generally have supported the requirement on employers, maintaining that at present the multinationals pay the bills for what they call "free rider" companies without benefits, which puts the big companies at a disadvantage against foreign competitors.

Trade groups for small businesses traditionally have opposed the requirement, saying they cannot afford it and would have to cut jobs to pay the premiums.

Before the Ways and Means Committee, Becker of McDonnell Douglas said that the 20-company coalition pays a "30 percent surcharge" on their own benefits to underwrite employers who do not. …

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