A think tank analyst says the federal government should encourage employers to offer individual health coverage to employees on a voluntary, employee-paid basis.

J.P. Wieske, director of state affairs at the Council for Affordable Health Insurance, Alexandria, Va., outlines the proposal in a discussion of “list billing,” or programs that let insurers send employers a single bill for all employees who have agreed to buy coverage through the list-billing arrangement.

In some states, small group coverage is cheaper than individual coverage. But a list-billing option would be useful in states where the individual health insurance market is working better than the small group market, Wieske writes in a commentary that presents his proposal.

Policies purchased through a voluntary, payroll-deduction system could be individually underwritten, but employees who could not get coverage through the payroll-deduction system could get it through state high-risk pools, Wieske writes.

Wieske recommends that Congress take 2 actions to promote use of voluntary, payroll-deduction health insurance programs.

One useful step would be for the federal government to make it clear that list billing is legal in every state, Wieske writes.

Another useful step would be for the federal government to make it clear that employees can use pre-tax dollars to buy voluntary major medical coverage through Section 125 plans, Wieske writes.