Health costs jump again – is it 2014 yet?

It got big play in the media today but a new Kaiser Family Foundation survey on the rising cost of health insurance is not breaking news to many Americans, including many of my friends and colleagues that are in untenable positions. NBC led their news tonight with a report on Kaiser’s study, it’s featured prominently in.The New York Times and other major media.

Premiums for employer sponsored health coverage jumped 9 percent in the past year, three times more than in 2010 — squeezing both employers and employees and some really hard decisions.

The Kaiser survey found that family plan premiums jumped 9 percent, hitting $15,073 on average, while coverage for single employees grew 8 percent to $5,429, according to a survey just released by the Kaiser Family Foundation and the Health Research & Educational Trust.

Workers paid an average of $921 toward the premium of single coverage and $4,129 for family plans.

The new health care law has made an impact; 9 percent is a far cry from the outrageous increases I previously wrote about before many of the law’s provisions kicked in. However, any increase in this wounded economy hurts. Employees are being asked to contribute more, yet salaries remain flat. Businesses, especially small businesses, have shifted more costs on to workers and many are seriously considering dropping health benefits all together.

Many analysts say the health law’s regulations that are already in effect — including allowing parents to keep children on their plan until age 26 and banning insurance carriers from dropping sick patients, did not have much impact on this year’s premium increases. However, to employees that are working more hours for the same or less money, and for businesses that are doing all they can to survive, it is yet another economic hit that again illustrates the real need to control health costs before care is out of the reach of anyone except the wealthy.

It’s a story of simple math and one that I would hope will garner more media coverage. If people cannot afford or lose their health insurance, they will not get preventive care or effectively manage chronic diseases. That means waiting until they are really sick and ending up in an emergency department or free clinic — ultimately costing more to treat.

And who pays for this? It’s no secret that these costs get passed back to those with insurance or those that can afford to pay out-of-pocket. Another chunk gets deducted by hospitals through tax credits. So we all wind up paying.

That is why 2014 can’t get here soon enough. I realize that many people are not happy with the insurance mandate. However unless everyone has coverage and we all share the risk, fewer businesses and employees will bear the costs of rising premiums. The gap between those that can afford care and those that can’t will continue to widen. Tax credits for the middle class and small businesses, affordable premiums through health insurance exchanges, and increased access to care will help to make sure that most Americans have some sort of health care coverage.

Politicians that talk about class warfare have yet to acknowledge that battle is already happening; it’s between the haves and have-nots. This is an angle that cries out for more media attention.

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