If a tree falls in a forest…

Another year, another health premium increase.

As workers prepare for the open enrollment period in a few months, they’ll notice a bigger chunk missing from their paychecks. In 2008, workers will pay about 10.1 percent MORE (that includes premiums and out-of-pocket costs. Ouch) than they have in previous years. The Wall Street Journal today reports on a trend that we’ve been watching closely, which is the gradual and heavy shift of health care costs from businesses to consumers.

Health premiums, many are aware, have been increasing at a rate two to three times inflation. But the increase has slowed a bit, due to the fact that “employers have been….passing a significant percentage of costs to employees,” the article says. This creates even bigger costs later, as employees/workers are getting sicker because they’re skipping preventative care and their meds.

“They’re essentially trading preventative care now for “rescue care” later,
which will lead to unhealthy employee populations, a decrease in employee
productivity and ultimately — higher health-care costs,”
said the expert from Hewitt’s Health Management Consulting business.

So even though workers aren’t taking up the high-deductible plans, which more blatantly shiftsmore costs onto them, workers are seeing more of a crunch in their pocketbooks through traditional plans — an average of $3,597 a year, which includes premiums, co-pays, deductibles and co-insurance. That’s a lot.

That’s why, this year consumer groups adamantly insisted that health costs be “affordable” for consumers — meaning the cost of premiums and deductibles and other out-of-pocket costs be no more than 5 percent of a person’s annual income — as was ultimately passed in AB8 (Nunez/Perata), which Gov. Schwarzenegger has threatened to veto.

Whatever happens with AB8, it’s why the health reform conversation is so important to have this year. Without it — this shift would be happening whether consumers had a voice or not.
Health Access California promotes quality, affordable health care for all Californians.
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