The health muddle [cont.]
Just as it looked like it couldn’t get much worse, new statistical evidence shows that health insurance is getting more expensive for most workers because of the increase in deductions.
Employer-provided health plans are defying earlier predictions their numbers would decrease in the face of new Obamacare regulations. But while the overall number of plans did not decrease appreciably, the plans’ members were hit in 2015 on the average with nearly 9% in more than $1,000-deductions. That means, of course, that the average worker is carrying a bigger part of the total plan expense than before.
The increases continued an already growing trend. The average deductible before their insurance kicks in has more than tripled from $303 in 2006 to $1,077 today. It also explains, to some extent, why workers’ wages have flattened. In their negotiations with employers they have taken medical insurance benefits stead of higher wages. It explains why these deductibles have increased more than seven times the increase in wages. It also explains why although increases in medical insurance premiums to an individual worker have actually fallen, by 1% over 2014, for the first time in a decade [even though they are up 3% for family plans]. In effect, the worker is exchanging any increase in premiums for higher deductibles.
That also means that one of the principle, if infinitely complicated aspects of Obamacare, has been having little effect. The Affordable Care Act [Obamacare] was supposed to supply subsidies through marketplace funds to offset increases in premiums. But aside from all the difficulties of getting these funds into place – state-administered funds versus federal funds – the growing difficulty for the average wage-earner is this increase in deductibles [and co-pays] rather than the premium itself.
A Kaiser Family Foundation’s study reports the average deductible for a more liberal plan this year is more than $2,500. So that predictions of critics of Obamacare that it would undermine company plans so far is now being born out. Of course, this is being reinforced by the so-called employer mandate in Obamacare which requires employers with 100 workers provide health benefits, a figure which drops to 50 workers in 2016. Business circles argue that this requirement is eating into overall employment, accounting in part for the growing structural unemployment rates even while the economy sputters to regain its footing. Management is reluctant to add workers and wherever possible will try to get under the ceilings.
Another piece of bad news in the Kaiser study is that the Obamacare’s 13% tax on so-called “Cadillac” plans offered by employers has led many companies to withdraw them. Opposition to the tax is coming as much from the Obama Administration’s normally loyal unions as from business circles.
It’s hard not to say we told you so. The slap-dash, one-party, Obama Administration’s effort to solve the infinitely complicated problems of modern medical care, a sixth of the economy, in one piece of legislation was always doomed. No one should minimize the problem of matching the growing technology, much of it expensive in its initial development, to the demands of an aging population. But we would plead with the critics of Obamacare, especially those determined to wipe it out and start over, not to look for any “golden key” solutions.
The problems of applying the incredible achievements in medical science to a growing population require study and compromise. These can best be made on a case by case basis, in a series of pieces of legislation, which may in some optimistic future be collected, but for the moment require attention to detail. It is one of the few issues which unitrs all Americans, and we wait impatiently for solutions – not a solution..