Sunday, September 12, 2004

Healthcare: Straws and Camels,

Heh, this news just in about premiums.

Premiums for employer-sponsored health insurance rose at about five times the rate of inflation
Posted By: News-Medical in Miscellaneous News
Published: Sunday, 12-Sep-2004

Employer-sponsored health insurance premiums increased an average of 11.2% in 2004 -- less than last year’s 13.9% increase, but still the fourth consecutive year of double-digit growth, according to the 2004 Annual Employer Health Benefits Survey released by the Kaiser Family Foundation and Health Research and Educational Trust (HRET).

Premiums for employer-sponsored health insurance rose at about five times the rate of inflation (2.3%) and workers’ earnings (2.2%).

In 2004, premiums reached an average of $9,950 annually for family coverage ($829 per month) and $3,695 ($308 per month) for single coverage, according to the new survey. Family premiums for PPOs, which cover most workers, rose to $10,217 annually ($851 per month) in 2004, up significantly from $9,317 annually ($776 per month) in 2003. Since 2000, premiums for family coverage have risen 59%.

The survey also found that the percentage of all workers receiving health coverage from their employer in 2004 is 61%, about the same as in 2003 (62%) but down significantly from the recent peak of 65% in 2001. As a consequence, there are at least 5 million fewer jobs providing health insurance in 2004 than 2001. A likely contributing factor is a decline in the percentage of small employers (three to 199 workers) offering health insurance over this period. In 2004, 63% of all small firms offer health benefits to their workers, down from 68% in 2001.

“The cost of family health insurance is rapidly approaching the gross earnings of a full-time minimum wage worker,” said Drew Altman, President and CEO of the Kaiser Family Foundation.

I think it speaks for itself, don't you?

There's a situation called "the straw breaking the camels back". The American family is mostly loaded up with two jobs, high mortgages, a lot of debt, and now they're being pressured because better paying jobs are harder to find and health-care costs to them are skyrocketing. People have been whinging about how this has been no big deal for a long time, but I think the staying capacity of the situation is just about exhausted. A lot of families are alreadying, quietly, folding. In the future it's going to get even tougher as the economi situation get's marginal.


At September 12, 2004 at 12:25 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is a disaster and is under reported as hell in the media. The HMO's are being run a extortion rackets pure and simple.

Its killing business and the working people, not to mention taking large sums of money out of our consumer economy.

And I agree with Oldman the people are pretty much maxed out in terms of ability to pay these ever skyrocketing premiums.


At September 12, 2004 at 6:31 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Rodger, Oldman: I recently learnt from a Kaiser nurse that their hospitals are run as a not-for-profit entity, while the doctors are for-profit. How those two things can be effectively separated is beyond me.

On a different point, while I'm not disagreeing with you, let me point out that many a doctor would also (rightfully) perceive themselves as a victim. I'm talking about office rents, medical equipment cost, insurance's requirements of evidence (to document the progress of their treatments), etc. And malpractice insurance, as some do have bad luck, and _are_ being taken advantage of by individuals who see lawsuits as the only way to recover the income support they are denied by society.

Obviously that differs with the specialty of the doctor. There are certainly enough, especially in densely populated and/or in-shape industrial areas, those that are to a degree "skimming" the money that is in the area. But there are also those who are patient-focused and try to do a good job, not pushing nonsense pills & X-rays on patients but listening to them and giving basic but important lifestyle advice and being punished for it as this is not what brings in the big bucks, and insurance carriers demanding "technical" evidence of their procedures.

It's like in all walks of life -- there are the good-natured and the unscrupulous, and a "system" that encourages the latter. It's important to keep this in mind.

What do you think?

-- cm

At September 13, 2004 at 12:15 AM, Blogger calmo said...

cm writes that doctors are in a way victims of the system too which reminded me of that joke about things being so tough that even the doctor has to find a second job.
For some time now, a very small portion (not doctors) of the population has acquired a very large chunk of the pie while most of us have been appeased by rising house values that have offset real declines in income.
(My view is that a redistribution of the pie now, won't fix the problem but these guys are responsible for writing/changing the rules of the game that got us into this mess.)
But that 'offet' seems to be changing as house prices are slowing. The HELs don't seem to be providing the same level of support that the refis of 03 did. The tax cuts are gone and the price of gas is 40% higher than last year.
And now the hikes in health care.
If recent car sales are any indication, the consummer is starting to feel an empty pocket or two.
Maybe. But the car companies aren't taking any chances as they all have increased their already generous incentives. Are folks holding back till after the election or are they really broke? PPI stats showing no pricing power --is that too much competition or too little demand?
Funny how Greenspan did not mention deflation in his last epistle. Don't want to cause a stampede at this point in the campaign I suppose.

At September 15, 2004 at 7:07 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I just found out that a German friend of mine is a partner in a company that buys and resells disposable medical supplies. He says, that this nitch market is under intense competition in Germany. They are haveing to lower their prices all the time.

One would assume that in the past, hospitals were paying very high prices due to lack of competicion.

A British lawyer I just met said, that the legal system is now, has become, BIG BUSINESS! So; the legal system is now working against "the people", not "for the people".

In regards to Greenspan in his at the FED. Seminar: If you read his speach, assuming that he is talking about "overhauling" the complete total American Structual System, It makes a different type of sence. He did give two examples in that speach, Schooling and Medical.

Jim Coomes

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