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Here’s a big surprise: Health insurance costs could continue to rise

Submitted by on Wednesday, 16 September 2009 No Comment

File under the category of “things workers already know but certain so-called leaders like to deny:”

Workers’ health insurance costs increased 5 percent this year – for those still lucky enough to have both jobs and insurance. Analysts are calling it a “moderate” increase, but that assessment’s hard to swallow when inflation fell and wages increased only 3.1 percent during that same period.

And “moderate” also has to be taken in historical context – increases that total 131 percent over the past 10 years, according to a new report from the Kaiser Family Foundation. The average family premium now stands at $13,375 a year.

Health care crisis? What health care crisis? There’s nothing going on that a little tort reform won’t cure. Why, a minimum-wage worker could pay that amount and still have $1,705 to blow each year on frivolities such as food. Life would be cake for a family at poverty level – they’d have almost $9,000 left for luxuries such as a home.

At least they will this year. Next year could be a different story.

According to Kaiser’s survey – it covered 3,188 firms – 42 percent of the companies responding said they plan to increase premiums next year. More than a third plan to increase costs for deductibles, office visits and prescription drugs as well.

The trend in prescriptions is interesting as well. Many companies have moved to four tiers of coverage, the report said – three used to be the norm. The average costs are $10 for first-tier generics, $27 for preferred brand names and $46 for non-preferred brand names. “Specialty medications” have an average copayment is $85.

I guess that would be the tier that many of the medications our doctors try to prescribe fall into. Asthma: It’s the new hair plugs for the Cadillac coverage set.

And, of course, there are far fewer generics on the markets than there should be because the big drug companies keep cutting illegal deals with the little drug companies to stop productions. Profits are preserved. Everyone’s happy.

Except, of course, for anyone who gets sick or has a chronic condition. We could probably satisy them, too, if we just had a market-oriented system.

It seems to me, though, that the current market-oriented system’s what got us where we are today: Ever-increasing medication and insurance costs that are directly proportional to ever-increasing drug and insurance company profits.

Who needs health-care reform? We do. Right now. And I don’t even care anymore if the government’s in charge. It would be nice to see something other than greed setting the course.

Copyright 2009 Debra Legg. All rights reserved.

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