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Aon survey: 75 percent of U.S. HR managers support drug importation
October 28, 2004
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Chicago, Ill. -- According to an Aon Consulting survey of human resource and benefit managers that concluded this week, over 74 percent of managers responsible for the employee health coverage at U.S. companies believe their plans should be allowed to import prescription drugs from Canada and other developed nations to lower costs.

"It appears HR and benefit managers find no reason to doubt the safety of these drugs and overwhelmingly favor access through their health plans,” says Gretchen Young, Vice President, Government Affairs with Aon Consulting in Washington, D.C. “This is evidence of the significant share of medical costs attributable to prescription drugs and the intensity of the drive by our respondents to look for new ways to keep a lid on medical expenses."

Both major party presidential candidates have made health care a lead issue in their campaigns and have different approaches to the future of health care coverage within employer-sponsored plans. 48.8 percent of the respondents believe that the current health care coverage system modified with proposals for tax credits, health savings accounts and association plans favored by President Bush would do a better job of controlling costs under their companies' health plans than proposals supported by Senator John Kerry.

"In more than any other area, the candidates' health platforms exhibit real, substantive differences. Survey respondents came down clearly on the side of more individual responsibility, coupled with additional tax-favored treatment for some segments. This reinforces a trend that has picked up over the last couple of years towards giving employees more responsibility for their health care decisions, e.g., consumer-directed health plans and health savings accounts," says Young.

14.4 percent favored the current system modified by government reinsurance, employer mandates, and providing individuals access to the Federal Employees Health Benefit Plan as proposed by Senator Kerry. Similar percentages also believe the President's proposals would do a better job of delivering health coverage to their employees and retirees versus Kerry (48 percent vs. 14.2 percent).

"Low level of support for the Kerry proposal was quite interesting. It may reflect doubt as to whether the reinsurance element of his proposal would ever result in actual decreased costs for companies and, more broadly, whether this platform would ever see the light of day in Congress. This result may also reflect concern over whether this could be a foot in the door for a stronger governmental role in forcing employers to have health insurance and mandating the type of coverage that would be required," says Young.

Although an overwhelming 97 percent of respondents thought that the health care issue was somewhat or very important in this presidential election, 41 percent believe that neither candidate will be able to improve the delivery of health care in the U.S.

"This highlights a perception among many HR and Benefits managers that government is unlikely to be able to help them with one of their biggest concerns - soaring medical costs."

Aon received responses from 327 companies that anonymously completed the survey during the past two weeks. The survey has a margin of error +/- 11 percentage points.

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