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Defining "Defined Contributions":
New Directions for Employer-Sponsored Health Insurance Coverage?
Tuesday, October 10, 2000
Overview of Defined Contributions
First Panel: Internet Approaches
Second Panel: Employer and Union Response
Defined contributions for health benefits have become the latest rage among consultants, promising employers a way to lessen the considerable administrative burden they face in managing health plans. These options also promise to expand employee choice and hold down costs simultaneously.
The Center for Studying Health System Change (HSC) is convening two panels that will examine the new popularity of defined contributions for health benefits and discuss related implications. These approaches run the gamut from fixed-dollar premium contributions, to providing cash or a voucher for employees to purchase insurance on the individual market, to Internet-based marketplaces. The Internet approaches will be examined in the most detail.
The conference will be moderated by HSC president Paul B. Ginsburg. Sally Trude, HSC senior researcher, will open the conference with a presentation of the range of proposed defined-contribution approaches and the issues they raise.
The first panel will focus on the various Internet-based approaches, including those seeking to remove the middleman between patient and provider, those providing a market basket of plans and those offering new insurance products. This panel will include Internet vendors who are marketing defined-contribution products and a researcher who has been examining these enterprises.
The second panel will consider the implications of the various approaches that fall under defined contributions, including operational issues, potential employee concerns and policy ramifications. This panel will include employers, a health benefits consultant and a union representative.
Each of the panels will be followed by a question-and- answer period.
Questions to Be Addressed Include:
What Can You Expect to Learn from This Conference?
Conference attendees will learn about the various approaches that are being called defined contributions and will assess their feasibility. The panel discussion will also provide insight into how purchasers and consultants want to reshape employer-sponsored coverage, and what objectives they hope to achieve. Finally, conference participants will have an opportunity to ask questions about a publicized emerging trend about which little is known beyond trade press reports.
The Center for Studying Health System Change— an independent research organization funded exclusively by The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation— provides objective, timely analyses about changes in the nation’s health care system and their impact on consumers to private and public decision makers. HSC, based in Washington, D.C., is affiliated with Mathematica Policy Research, Inc.