Healthcare Armageddon

The New York Times had an excellent article this weekend about workers, who have health coverage through work, feeling financially strained.

The reason: businesses – unable to absorb higher health care costs – have decided that workers need to absorb more of these costs. Businesses are buying crappier coverage (this doesn’t mean cheaper premiums, just cheaper than more comprehensive plans, but still expensive) and asking workers to pay a greater share of the premium. So not only are premiums for workers increasing, but the plans that they are getting are getting worse, which means higher copays, deductibles, and less coverage.

It used to be that worrying about how to pay for health care happened mostly if you didn’t have insurance. Then, it started creeping into the ranks of the insured — but only those who bought insurance on their own, without the benefit of a group buying in bulk to negotiate lower rates. Now, though, health cost worries are hitting the employer market — where most Americans get their coverage.

One *insured* worker said he was losing the equivalent of a month’s worth of pay with the higher premium and deductibles. That’s in addition to the fact that the coverage isn’t very good.

Another *insured* worker, who has diabetes, doesn’t monitor her blood sugar regularly and can’t afford to see an eye doctor on top of other normal everyday expenses.

The Times characterized these plans as “health insurance in name only.” I like that: essentially people are paying to be uninsured under these plans.

My health plan colleagues would argue that having some kind of coverage is better than being uninsured. No?

But is it really? At what point does debt become so crushing that it doesn’t matter if the number is $60,000 or $200,000 in debt, and accruing interest. Especially considering that families that are insured, earning more than 300% of the poverty level actually have negative (-$600) net financial assets according to the latest study by Health Affairs. On an annual income of $60,000, either way, you’re screwed.

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