Head of LDS Church's insurance company tells U.S. House to protect work-based health plans

Reform warnings » Wrong plan could spur 'exodus'
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The president of the LDS Church's insurance company urged a House committee Tuesday to protect the employer-based health care system and warned against taxing those benefits as part of a proposed reform plan.

But Michael Stapley didn't appear before the committee in his role as the president and CEO of Deseret Mutual, based in Salt Lake City. Rather, he represented large employers as a leading member of the ERISA Industry Committee.

ERISA is the acronym for the federal law that governs health insurance for companies operating in more than one state.

He said the industry-backed group is committed to health care reform that curbs costs, creates a nationwide insurance marketplace and requires everyone to have coverage, while providing help for the poor.

"Equally important, I believe, is that this reform be accomplished without undermining the system that currently offers quality health care to 170 million satisfied Americans," Stapley said.

He was one of 15 witnesses who presented their views before the House Education and Labor Committee, one of three House panels drafting the massive reform bill. The group included union representatives, academics, business owners, patient groups and an economist for President Barack Obama.

While they did disagree on some of the particulars, everyone who participated said Congress needed to do something to change the nation's failing system.

"No one is clamoring for inaction," said Rep. Tom Price, R-Ga., who is a medical doctor.

The main sticking points appear to be how to pay for health care reform, particularly the expensive subsidies to provide coverage to the poor, and whether the bill should include a "public plan" that would compete against private health insurance companies.

President Barack Obama once again detailed his support for a public plan during his press conference Tuesday, saying "it is an important tool to discipline insurance companies." Democrats believe the plan will force private insurance companies to reduce costs to stay competitive.

But Republicans bristle at the idea, believing the public option will undercut private plans.

Stapley expressed his reservations about a public plan saying it may create "an exodus" from employment-based plans to government sponsored insurance.