Containing health care costs a top priority for Maryland businesses

February 23, 2011

Jay Hancock's recent column ("Maryland business a no-show in fight over the cost of health care," Feb. 22) did not fully describe the efforts of the Maryland Chamber of Commerce and employers in our state to slow the rise of health insurance costs. We have, in fact, already taken positions on 16 health care bills before the Maryland General Assembly and are reviewing more. Our positions are based on our 800 members' needs and interests and determined through rigorous committee processes. With 70 percent of our members having fewer than 100 employees, we are indeed a diverse business organization with a strong track record of success in Annapolis.

Employers sponsor health insurance for two-thirds of Marylanders and fund most of the costs. Obviously, employers have much at stake in keeping the cost of those plans affordable. Controlling health care costs continues to one of our top priorities.

Maryland has over 45 state-mandated health insurance benefits that drive up the cost of health insurance. The Maryland Chamber has repeatedly opposed new mandates that will further inflate health insurance costs, including several this session.

We have strongly objected to Gov. Martin O'Malley's $250 million increased health care assessment on hospitals in his proposed budget. This is essentially a tax on health care that would be passed on to employers through higher health insurance rates.

The Chamber of Commerce supports efforts to provide medical liability reforms in order to bring down the cost of medical liability insurance for health care providers and reduce the large expense of defensive medicine.

We are advocating for a Maryland Health Benefit Exchange that expands access to health insurance while not taking business from the private health insurance market.

Each of these positions would help control health care costs in Maryland. Elected officials need to understand that employers are the strongest advocates for containing health care costs so we can continue to help provide health insurance plans to our employees.

Kathy Snyder, Annapolis

The writer is president and CEO of the Maryland Chamber of Commerce

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