McD pledges support for health-care plan

OAK BROOK Ill. McDonald's Corp. has pledged its support for a White House plan to reduce the cost of health care while improving the quality, and thereby ultimately reducing the cost of health insurance.

The quick-service giant was the only restaurant party among the 27 Illinois corporations, business groups and colleges that met Thursday with Mike Leavitt, secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Leavitt was mustering support for the as-yet-unnamed initiative, which is part of a larger push for what proponents call value-driven health care.

Under the plan spelled out by Leavitt, employers would provide employees enrolled in their healthcare insurance programs with comparative information on the price and quality of medical services available to them. By leading the insured to the best values available to them, advocates say, market dynamics would curb the runaway costs of health care, and those savings to insurers would be reflected in more affordable premiums.

Although the approach is being pushed by the White House, it would be be enaced state by state.

McDonald's representatives signed a statement of support for the plan, according to a statement released by HHS.

Because of its size, McDonald's is been solicited several times for healthcare-reform initiatives where the financial might of large companies could make a difference. For instance, two years ago the restaurant behemoth joined forces with such concerns as General Electric and IBM to buy medical coverage as a group and thus enjoy significant economies of scale. By lowering the cost of the coverage, McDonald's indicated at the time, the company could offer more affordable coverage options to retirees and other constituents. The employees would pay 100 percent of the premiums, but the size of those outlays would be much lower than what they would find as individual buyers.

McDonalds, based here, employs more than 400,000 people.

In his State of the Union address, President Bush voiced support for making health insurance more affordable for the estimated 47 million Americans who currently lack coverage. One of  the ways, he said at the time, was supporting state-level programs that brought down costs.