132 Annual Meeting Logo - Go to APHA Meeting Page  
APHA Logo - Go to APHA Home Page

Trends Affecting Employment-Based Health Coverage and Organized Labor's Response

JoAnn Volk, MA, Legislative Department, AFL-CIO, 815 16th Street, N.W., Washington, DC 20006, 202/637-5121, jvolk@aflcio.org

The American health care system is built upon job-based health coverage, which has become more tenuous with changes in the labor force, rising health care costs, and public policy. Overall, there has been a shift from union-heavy industries to less organized sectors. At the same time, employers who continue to provide coverage are responding to repeated hikes in health care costs by shifting more costs onto workers -- a trend that is reinforced by federal policies establishing tax-advantaged individual savings accounts for health care costs not covered by health insurance.

Other trends in federal policy would undermine traditional, comprehensive employment-based coverage. Congressional leaders promote individual responsibility and "consumer choice" as a meaningful counter to rising health care costs. At the same time, there has been considerable effort to restrict consumer protections in the health insurance marketplace. Recent examples of these trends have been the Medicare prescription drug legislation enacted in 2003, which made sweeping changes to the underlying Medicare program, and the Trade Adjustment Assistance Health Care Tax Credit enacted in 2002, a program some are calling a model for future coverage expansions. Organized labor, which has an enormous stake in both pieces of legislation, played a significant part in the public debate on the measures and continues to seek legislative improvements in both.

Learning Objectives: At the conclusion of the session, the participant will be able to

Keywords: Labor,

Related Web page: www.aflcio.org

Presenting author's disclosure statement:
I do not have any significant financial interest/arrangement or affiliation with any organization/institution whose products or services are being discussed in this session.

The Labor Movement and National Health Policy

The 132nd Annual Meeting (November 6-10, 2004) of APHA