Creeping Costs….

Lots of press last week made a big deal of the fact that health care premiums were inching up 6.1 percent, rather than the usual gazillion percent of years past. Some even gave passing mention to how consumers were paying more out-of-pocket.

But a close look at the KFF-HRET 2007 Employer Health Benefits Survey gives us a good view of exactly how much out-of-pocket costs are creeping upward.

Many, rightly, fixate on deductibles. For instance, in 2000, only 1 percent of workers had deductibles higher than $1,000; now 10% of workers have deductibles at that level.

Deductibles are part of the picture, but not the whole thing.

This year, for instance, the survey started tracking separate “hospital” deductibles that consumers would have to pay, on TOP of their regular deductibles. More than half of plans are now imposing those fees. Some plans have also started imposing separate prescription drug deductibles, but that’s not reflected in this year’s survey — yet.

Another interesting finding — we’re getting nickled and dimed to death by co-pays. Just three short years ago (2004), 68% of patients had copays of less than $15; now 45% have copays at that level. Meanwhile, in the same period, the number of people paying between $20-$25 per visit nearly doubled.

As we head into Round two of health reform in California, let’s not forget about these pesky out-of-pocket costs. Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez and Senate Leader Don Perata wisely added — at the last minute — language in their AB8 that would limit consumers’ out-of-pocket costs. Let’s make sure it stays that way.

(And ‘Hi.’ I’ve been neglecting this for a bit, but now I’m back on.)

Health Access California promotes quality, affordable health care for all Californians.
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