Bosses shift health care costs to employees; workers’ health suffers

Workers whose bosses offer health insurance are paying 14% more out of their own pockets this year for the coverage. The average such worker is paying almost $4,000 a year toward their family health coverage. 2010 Employer Health Benefits Survey.

This increased financial burden on workers results from their employers increasingly shifting the cost of health insurance onto their employees’ backs. Total premiums for family coverage, including what employers themselves contribute, rose a modest 3 percent. However, the amount employers contribute for family coverage did not increase. For years now, employers have been making their employees pay more for their health coverage. Since 2005, workers’ contributions to premiums have gone up 47 percent, while overall premiums rose 27 percent, representing a large shift of health care costs to workers.

The rate of increased health care costs outstrips wage increases. In other words, the employers’ cost-shifting decreases workers’ incomes. The median income of all households stayed roughly the same from 2008 to 2009. It had fallen sharply the year before, as the recession gained steam and remains well below the levels of the late 1990s.

Lawrence Katz, an economist at Harvard University, said the decline in incomes in 2008 had been greater than expected, and when the two recession years are considered together, the decline since 2007 was 4.2 percent. Gains achieved earlier in the decade were wiped out, and median family incomes in 2009 were 5 percent lower than in 1999.

“This is the first time in memory that an entire decade has produced essentially no economic growth for the typical American household,” Mr. Katz said.

If your out-of-pocket expenses — high deductibles, costly premiums, and large co-pays — are high, you’re more likely to forego needed health care. Workers and their families are being forced to deal with acute problems on their own and to ignore chronic medical problems until there’s an acute crisis. The worst recession (personally, I’d call it a depression) since the Great Depression is literally killing people.

Sunday, December 12th, 2010 at 15:14