The Wall Street Journal has a terrific piece today about how the recession is accelerating the fraying the post-World War II compact between workers and employers (which has, of course, been fraying for several decades now). Key nugget:
Two-thirds of big companies that cut health-care benefits don't plan to restore them to pre-recession levels, they recently told consulting firm Watson Wyatt. When the firm asked companies that have trimmed retirement benefits when they expect to restore them, fewer than half said they would do so within a year, and 8% said they didn't expect to ever.
Overall, the story really just affirms the president's central mantra on health care reform--that is, a rejection of the idea that the health care status quo on is stable (if less than ideal). In fact, as Obama has stressed, the status quo gets significantly worse every year. From the Journal story:
Employers that offer health insurance spend an average of $6,700 per employee on it this year, nearly twice as much as in 2001, according to consulting firm Hewitt Associates. ...
The percentage of employers offering health-care benefits is 60% this year, down from 63% in 2008 and 69% in 2000, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.
In a survey by Hewitt last winter, 19% of large employers said they planned to move away from directly sponsoring health-care benefits over the next five years.
In the meantime, workers' share of health costs is headed up. For next year, 63% of employers that offer health coverage plan to increase employees' share of the expense, according to a survey of 1,500 employers by another consulting firm, Mercer.
For what it's worth, the pension portions of the piece are pretty interesting, too.