NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Strengthening Employer Provided Health Insurance

August 20, 2002

In response to the current health care dilemma, President Bush is pushing new health care reforms designed to increase flexibility, expand accessibility and strengthen the safety net.

Currently, people are choosing to join preferred provider organizations (PPOs) over restrictive health maintenance organizations (HMOs). However, HMOs have an advantage; PPOs have significant out-of-pocket payments paid with after-tax earnings, which HMOs do not. The Bush Health Plan will address this.

Moreover, President Bush has proposed to loosen the restrictions on Archer Medical Savings Accounts (MSAs):

  • Under the proposal, all individuals who purchase a health plan with a significant deductible (at least $1,000 for individuals and $2,000 for couples and families) would be eligible to contribute to an MSA up to the amount of the deductible.
  • Health plans could offer first-dollar coverage for preventive services without it counting against the deductible.

This would be a significant improvement over current law, which requires very high deductibles, forbids first-dollar coverage for any service and allows only partial funding of the MSA each year.

The Bush administration also supports improvements in Flexible Spending Accounts (FSAs). Currently, any unspent money is lost. Under the new proposal, employees will be able to retain as much as $500 to use the following year or to deposit in their 401(k) plan.

Additionally, the administration supports the creation of association health plans (AHPs) to give small businesses more health insurance options that many large employers can offer. By lowering the cost of providing health benefits, AHPs will encourage and enable more small businesses to offer them.

Many health care analysts agree that AHPs will significantly increase the number of small-firm employees and dependents with health insurance coverage. Most importantly, AHPs will enable the nation to begin closing the gap in health care coverage for employees of small businesses.

Source: Mark McClellan (member, President's Council of Economic Advisers), "The Bush Health Agenda - Part I: Strengthening Employer-Provided Health Insurance," Brief Analysis No. 414, August 20, 2002, National Center for Policy Analysis.

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