The Healthcare Bottom-Line - Workers Pay More

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A recently released study by the Kaiser Family Foundation examining trends in employer healthcare benefits recorded a 5% increase in healthcare premiums for 2008.
Premiums for employer-provided plans now average $4,704 for a single-person and $12,680 for a family.
These figures have increased by a staggering 119% since 1999.
Yet, employers have not shouldered the entire burden of these rising costs.
They have instead shifted costs off to their employees to the tune of a 117% increase in cost since 1999.
Workers now pay, on average, $1,543 for single coverage and $3,354 for family coverage.
Equally ominous is the fact that a broad survey of employers found that 40% of respondents expect to increase employee-contributions to all aspects of healthcare coverage in the coming year.
An even more frightening picture is painted when the numbers are examined more closely.
The average payment made by a worker for a family plan has increased from $129 in 1999 to $280 in 2008.
The squeeze on budgets also has a regional flavor with workers in the South paying a monthly charge of $313 for a family plan while workers in the Northeast are charged in average $246 (although a monthly charge for a single-plan of $75 for Northeast workers is the highest in the country).
Employment sector and union status is another factor in the percentage a worker will be forced to pay with wholesale, retail and finance sector workers being asked to pay nearly 20% of single and nearly 30% of family premiums while federal/state/local government workers, who are generally represented by trade unions, pay only 12% for single and 21% for family.
Costs inside of plans have also increased sharply.
Take for instance the charges by HMOs for visits to a physician's office.
In 1999, 83% of plans charged a $10 co-pay or less.
In 2008, nearly 70% of plans charge $15 or more.
Things are even murkier when prescription drugs are considered.
Tiering, or creating levels of cost for pharmaceuticals, was introduce en-masse in 2000.
A scale of three tiers was employed initially.
The first-tier cost of drugs has increased from $8 on average in 2000 to $10 in 2008.
However, a fourth tier was introduced widely in 2004 priced at $59.
This cost is now $75 and the third tier has increased from $29 in 2000 to $46 in 2008.
The end result of this squeeze is, not surprisingly, enormous profits for health insurance companies and serious pressure on the household budgets of workers.
Health insurance giants Humana (18%), United Health (5%) and Aetna (8%) have all reported profit increases for the period from 2006 to 2008.
CEOs for companies were well-rewarded with compensation packages which amounted to $10 million, $9 million and $23 million.
Simultaneously, a 2005 study indicated that 50% of personal bankruptcy claims, more than 2 million, were based on debts incurred as a result of medical procedures.
A correlation has also been made between healthcare and problems with housing including inability to pay rent or mortgage payments.
In sum, we see that healthcare is a serious class issue.
The for-profit health system represents a serious financial drain on working-class households and is interlinked with, the now much publicized, problems in the home-loan mortgage markets.
The creation of a single-payer national healthcare insurance is therefore the very definition of the term "bailout.
" The only difference, and this is a key difference in a society in which corporations monopolize political power, is that instead of the government purchasing worthless mortgage-backed securities, the entire society would be relieved of the financial stress of healthcare bills and psychological anxiety of a future where healthcare is not a guarantee.
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