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ALTHOUGH FRUSTRATED OVER SOARING COSTS, U.S. BUSINESSES WOULD KEEP CURRENT HEALTH SYSTEM

 ALTHOUGH FRUSTRATED OVER SOARING COSTS,
 U.S. BUSINESSES WOULD KEEP CURRENT HEALTH SYSTEM
 SAN FRANCISCO, May 20 /PRNewswire/ -- Although deeply frustrated by the relentless rise in their employee health benefit costs, large U.S. employers are still unwilling to push for a full-scale restructuring of the nation's health care system, according to a new study by William M. Mercer Inc.
 The study participants -- more than 400 top human resource executives of major companies -- make decisions on health benefits that affect upwards of 4 million employees and their dependents for a total of 11 million Americans. Approximately three-fourths of these corporate managers express the view that the present health care system needs to change, but they believe it requires less than radical revamping rather than a far-reaching overhaul. A quarter of the participants, however, call for a totally new health care structure and want to overhaul completely what we have today.
 The revampers, who advocate incremental improvements in the current system, for the most part do not agree among themselves on the type of changes they would make. But they strongly concur on the need to keep government involvement in the health care system to a minimum. The overhaulers, who see the need for sweeping changes, are far from unanimous in recommending the shape of a new system. However, they see federal taxes as the best way to finance health care.
 "These executives are about as close to the economics of the U.S. health care system as anyone can get," said Mercer consultant Linda Bergthold. "If they are profoundly divided in proposing solutions to correct a system gone awry, it is difficult to envisage a well-defined consensus by American business on this critical public policy issue."
 The survey results also showed widespread health benefits cost shifting; most participants (82 percent) say their companies have already shifted more of the responsibility for medical costs to employees and another 9 percent expect to do so in the next 12 months. Additionally, the executives showed surprising support for rationing of health care services including the elimination of high-cost procedures where the patient has no hope of recovery.
 Entitled "In the Cards: A Survey on the Future of the U.S. Health Care System," the study sought to report the thinking of human resource executives about the health care system, as well as to identify possible compromises that might lead to a workable system for the next century.
 Survey participants were asked to answer a brief questionnaire and to sort, in priority order, a series of eight cards. Each card contained a possible scenario for the U.S. health care system, including these elements: overall financing of the health care system, patient out-of-pocket financing, access to care, management and quality assurance of care, and compensation of health care providers.
 Overhaulers -- the executives inclined to scrap the present health care system and start all over -- for the most part saw taxes on individuals and employers as the way to finance a new system -- a position rejected by the revampers. However, all participants were reasonably in agreement that households should shoulder a portion of their health care bill through co-payments.
 Most participants expressed unanimity over the need to change the way health care providers are compensated; only a minority of the executives expressed confidence in the existing system. "Make it mandatory for all physicians to be on salary at both hospitals and clinics and do not allow them to charge as an independent billing entity," urged an executive in a written comment.
 William M. Mercer Inc. is one of the nation's leading actuarial, employee benefits, compensation and human resources management consulting firms. Its more than 3,500 employees serve more than 9,000 employers from offices in 44 U.S. cities, including San Francisco and San Jose. The firm, headquartered in New York, is the U.S. operating company of William M. Mercer Companies Inc., a worldwide consulting organization serving clients from offices in 100 cities in 22 countries. William M. Mercer Cos. Inc. is part of Mercer Consulting Group Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Marsh & McLennan Cos. Inc.
 -0- 5/20/92
 NOTE: Linda Bergthold is a health care expert at Mercer, was a member of Garamendi's task force on healthcare reform. Copies of the survey are available by calling Bruce Lewis or Gary Summers at 510-284-7004.
 /CONTACT: Linda Bergthold of William M. Mercer Inc., 415-393-5685/ CO: William M. Mercer Inc. ST: California IN: HEA SU:


RM-MM -- SF003 -- 2341 05/20/92 13:40 EDT
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Date:May 20, 1992
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