Our View

Our health care costs go up, up, up

By From page A6 | December 19, 2012

The issue: American working families are ready for reforms to rein in the rising expenses

Health coverage remains a major drag on wages and jobs. The average total cost to provide health insurance to a family of four through an employer topped $15,000 last year, according to a report released last week.

BY THE END of the decade, if current trends continue, that tab could be $25,000. The analysis from the nonprofit Commonwealth Fund found that premiums have gone up 62 percent since 2003, while median family income rose just 11 percent during the same period.

“It’s real money,” said Commonwealth senior vice president Cathy Schoen, who led the team that compiled the report from surveys of employers and census data.

The average worker shelled out nearly $4,000 on family premiums last year, an increase of 74 percent since 2003. Yet deductibles, co-pays and other out-of-pocket costs families have to pick up keep rising. Deductibles went up 117 percent during the eight years studied, even worse for people working in firms with fewer than 50 employees.

The increased load carried by companies offering insurance also soaks up pay raises and gives a strong disincentive to hire more workers.

FEDERAL HEALTH CARE reform — the Affordable Care Act — is supposed to not just expand coverage, but lower the cost of health insurance with rules intended to cut overhead and make care more cost-effective. Some changes, like keeping administrative costs below 20 percent, already have taken effect, but most provisions require some time to have much impact.

American working families strapped by this runaway expense can only hope the reforms and other measures rein in the growth in costs sooner rather than later, while they do their best to wisely manage their share of health expenses.

Our View

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