Companies Form Alliance to Seek Group Insurance

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Embracing the old adage that there's "strength in numbers," more than 50 of the country's largest employers are banding together to find affordable health insurance for more than 4 million of their currently uninsured employees, the Washington Post reported.

The companies, which include McDonald's, Marriott, Sears and Lockheed Martin, are looking for a single insurer to cover part-time employees, contractors and others who don't qualify for traditional company plans.

The employees won't pay for the coverage, rather the companies will form purchasing pools that negotiate with the insurer to get lower rates than the workers could get individually, the Post reported.

The plan was due to be announced yesterday at a Washington press conference, led by the HR Policy Association, a trade group representing senior human resources executives of more than 200 large companies, the Post reported.

"We are aiming to work with one health plan to create a series of coverage choices at different prices that can be tailored to fit a wide range of budgets, from low-income part-time workers to highly compensated full-time independent contractors not covered by a company plan," Greg A. Lee, a senior vice president for Sears, Roebuck & Co., said in a statement prepared for the news conference.

The coalition, which also includes IBM, American Airlines, Ford Motor and United Parcel Service, said in a statement it was "alarmed by the 43.6 million Americans without health care protection, the drain on worker productivity, the ballooning costs of company health benefits, and the widespread inefficiencies in the U.S. health care system," the Post reported.

The insurance companies were naturally looking to land this new opportunity and the companies said they are seeking an insurer that will accept all the employees in question regardless of preexisting conditions.

"We're not a cure-all," J. Randall MacDonald, a senior vice president of IBM, said in remarks prepared for the news conference and reported by the Post. "The root causes of problems like the uninsured and sharply escalating health care costs are far too complex to be solved overnight."

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