While most dealers fret over past increases and the possibility of future hikes in health insurance premiums, there's no consensus over what to do about the problem, ProSales' latest LBM survey indicates.

Nearly two-thirds of the roughly 185 dealers responding to the online poll (see summary) cited cost, affordability or the rising price of premiums when asked to name their biggest concern regarding the state of health care coverage in America today.

Most are well acquainted with the problem: just under one in six said their health insurance premiums climbed more than 15% this year, and a few dealers volunteered that they had stopped providing coverage. Nearly 64% of the dealers offer a traditional PPO [preferred provider organization] service. Half provide prescription coverage and dental care, and just over a quarter have vision care.

Building material dealers historically have provided their employees with more robust, better-funded health care coverage than other industries. Even now, one-third of the dealers surveyed said their employees don't have to pay a dime for health premiums, and 9.4% pay all the costs of coverage for their employees' spouses and family.

But while most dealers may be on the same page about the cost of health coverage, sharp disagreement persists over whether the federal government can improve the status quo. Nearly 20% said their biggest fear with regard to the health care reform debate going on now in Washington involved the possibility of government mandates.

But while 13.9% said keeping government involvement out of health care was what they would most like to see take place in the health reform debates, another 11% called for universal health care or some form of mandated coverage or participation.

"Being forced to do a mandated plan with no option," was one Tennessee LBM owner's biggest fear. "I thought this was America," he added.

"Health care is not part of the Bill of Rights," added a CFO in New England. "People who cannot afford health care are not 'entitled' to health care at all costs." (A one-stepper in Ohio even urged the abolition of Medicare and Medicaid.) But a yard owner in Indiana declared the current system "100% broke. It's time for universal health care in this great country."

How to solve the problem? Just over 21% of the respondents suggested tort reform to reduce the cost of lawsuits and in turn make it less onerous to practice medicine.

The survey was conducted in late August and early September.