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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Corporate leaders are warming up to the idea of government-led efforts to control health care costs — a major shift for the historically conservative, anti-regulation business world. 

Why it matters: Businesses’ health care costs continue to climb, year after year. If they’re actually ready to turn to the government for help, the health care industry will have a much harder time fending off new regulations.

Details: KFF, along with the Purchaser Business Group on Health and supported by the West Health Institute, surveyed corporate leaders from 300 private employers, all with at least 5,000 workers. The survey included 40 CEOs.

  • 87% of the corporate officers we surveyed said they believe the cost of health benefits will become unsustainable over the next 5-10 years, and 85% said the government needs to take on a bigger role in controlling costs and providing coverage.
  • 78% expressed some level of support for government action on hospital prices, in areas where there is limited competition. And perhaps more significantly, coming from what has always been an anti-regulatory crowd, less than 5% opposed such regulations.
  • The numbers were similar for government limits on drug prices.
  • 65% expressed some level of support for a public insurance option for their workers, and a large majority also supported lowering the age for Medicare eligibility.

Between the lines: As America emerges from the pandemic, health spending is likely to pick back up, saddling employers once again with ever-rising premiums.

  • Corporate leaders said they will continue to pursue value-based payments, shift more costs to their employees, and do all the other things they’ve been doing for years to try to control their health costs.
  • But those measures haven’t delivered very strong results. Even the largest employers have found that they don't have the market clout to control their costs on their own.

What we’re watching: Corporate America is getting more overtly political on a host of issues, but corporate America has talked a big game about health costs for decades while never supporting legislation to control those costs. 

  • Whether big businesses will put real lobbying and advocacy energy into health care legislation remains an open question.

The bottom line: Congress listens to CEO’s. If they add their weight to legislative debates about health costs, it could make a real difference — and they seem increasingly inclined to do so.

Go deeper.

Go deeper

Biden calls on Congress to lower prescription drug costs

Photo: Samuel Corum/Bloomberg via Getty Images

President Biden on Thursday called on Congress to reduce the prices of prescription drugs, the White House said.

State of play: Biden asked Congress to create reforms that will prevent drug companies from raising their prices "faster than inflation." He also urged Congress to allow Medicare to negotiate drug prices, which it is currently prohibited from doing so by law.

HHS to require COVID-19 vaccine for 25,000 of its health care workers

HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra. Photo: Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

The Department of Health and Human Services on Thursday announced that it will require more than 25,000 members of its health care workers to be vaccinated against COVID-19.

Why it matters: It's the latest federal agency to implement a vaccine mandate, joining the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Pentagon.

Hope King, author of Closer
Aug 13, 2021 - Economy & Business

Vaccine mandates exacerbate class divide

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Corporate America's patchwork approach to vaccine requirements is deepening the pandemic's class divides.

Why it matters: New cases of coronavirus, driven by the Delta variant, are up 86% in the U.S. over the past two weeks. The rise in new infections has upended return to work plans for certain sectors of the economy, while others can't afford to change course.