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Pile of money with stethescope
There's good news and bad news for consumers on the health insurance affordability front. Premium costs are rising, but very modestly, in keeping with a slowed rate of health care costs in general over the past several years. The trouble is, costs are still increasing, while wages aren't.

The Kaiser Family Foundation/Health Research & Educational Trust (HRET) released its annual employer health benefits survey Tuesday, finding that premiums increased just four percent over the past year. But, "[d]uring the same period, workers’ wages and general inflation were up 1.8 percent and 1.1 percent respectively."

This year’s rise in premiums remains moderate by historical standards. Since 2003, premiums have increased 80 percent, nearly three times as fast as wages (31 percent) and inflation (27 percent).

“We are in a prolonged period of moderation in premiums, which should create some breathing room for the private sector to try to reduce costs without cutting back benefits for workers,” Kaiser President and CEO Drew Altman, Ph.D., said.

A soon-to-be-released monthly tracking poll from KFF, previewed for the WonkBlog's Sarah Kliff, will show that people have no perception of slower health insurance premium growth. A four percent increase in premiums, balanced against a 1.8 percent salary hike, means you're still paying too much for health insurance. On top of that, the amount you have to pay in deductibles has also been increasing.
“We have a very moderate increase this year, but premiums go up each year,” Kaiser Family Foundation president Drew Altman says. “People see what they pay for their premium going up and perhaps more forms of cost-sharing. We’ve been seeing a quiet revolution from more comprehensive coverage to less.”

Altman said that preliminary results from his group’s survey show that 54 percent of Americans think health care costs are growing faster than average. “A tiny number said they were growing slower,” he says. “I think that’s because, if we look at this as a long term trend, health care costs have increased in excess of wages and inflation.”

Some of the Obamacare reforms will help. Some people will get rebates from their insurance company, if the company exceeds the limit the law put in place for the non-health care related expenses. Additionally, out-of-pocket spending should decrease for everyone with more preventive care being provided without copay. But that money saved will be balanced against a premium increase—even a relatively small one—coming out of every paycheck and likely increased deductibles.

Lower rates of growth in health care costs are, for the health care system, only good and the more Obamacare can contribute to that the better. The larger problem—in terms of both politics and policy—is that consumers won't feel it and in fact will be asked to pick up more of the share of their health care costs. That's not fixing the system. Obamacare is a start, and needs to succeed so that we can move on to the next reform. But there has to be a next reform.

Originally posted to Joan McCarter on Tue Aug 20, 2013 at 02:10 PM PDT.

Also republished by Daily Kos.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (14+ / 0-)

    "The NSA’s capability at any time could be turned around on the American people, and no American would have any privacy left, such is the capability to monitor everything. [...] There would be no place to hide."--Frank Church

    by Joan McCarter on Tue Aug 20, 2013 at 02:10:03 PM PDT

  •  health costs going up (11+ / 0-)

    faster than wages and inflation remains bad news. It just means that it is consuming a growing slice of the pie.

  •  Our Copays Are Up a Bunch. (10+ / 0-)

    I think commercial healthcare is headed for mainly catastrophic for most people.

    We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

    by Gooserock on Tue Aug 20, 2013 at 02:22:41 PM PDT

  •  BCBS increase 20% this year for both of us on ... (6+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    hmi, Aunt Pat, Puddytat, corvo, tle, Willa Rogers

    two separate individual policies.

    “The comfort of the rich depends upon an abundant supply of the poor.” - Voltaire.

    by LamontCranston on Tue Aug 20, 2013 at 03:23:57 PM PDT

    •  Likewise (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      LamontCranston, qofdisks

      Those stats don't reflect my experience.  But then, I live in Florida, land of the criminal governor who got super rich by screwing over patients and the government.

      I am become Man, the destroyer of worlds

      by tle on Wed Aug 21, 2013 at 02:21:43 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  My out-of-pocket costs are up to $10,000/year... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      qofdisks

      ...before I'm fully covered by my insurance. Junk insurance is the new normal under PPACA, with people making $35,000/year pretax expected to pay $6,000/year in deductibles and co-pays.

      I do think such costs will lead to something better down the line, because there's no way the middle class can absorb those sorts of costs on an annual basis, but it's going to be painful to watch and experience as out-of-pocket costs become unaffordable and impel people to defer seeking care.

  •  Many won't notice unless Faux News tells them (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Aunt Pat, Puddytat

    Any what's the chance of Fox dealing with facts and telling the truth?

  •  High deductible HSA plans (10+ / 0-)

    Looking only at premiums is fools gold.

    My (very large) employer has basically forced us all into high deductible HSA plans.  Our premiums are lower in this plan, but we're now responsible for the first 4 or 5 thousand dollar in medical costs out of pocket.

    This is an employer that provided free health care into the 90s

    •  same here (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      corvo, Willa Rogers, qofdisks

      Had decent coverage until about 2 years ago. Now, we get close to reaching the point where they'd have to start with copays, but not quite to it unless something happens. All of the money we save by having insurance is simply because medical places have lower rates for the insured, and that adds up to quite a bit. I guess there is those preventative visits... of course, if you have actual health concerns, those visits aren't preventative, so they aren't even covered. And I hear stories at work from people that do get to the point where the insurance is supposed to pay things, and they find loopholes or just don't pay.

      I'd hoped we'd have a choice with the exchanges, and am still hoping that maybe in another year, they'll lead to some actual choice, but everything available looks like more of the same so far.

    •  This is the sleeper issue... (0+ / 0-)

      ...as PPACA rolls out, I believe.

  •  Gee (8+ / 0-)

    Nobody's noticed the first derivative of premium cost is somewhat smaller this year?  How unreasonable of them.

    •  Well... (0+ / 0-)

      your Math cult is protected by the Constitution but please hold your meetings where children will not be exposed.

      I expect you'll soon be talking about evolution.

      "Our problem is not that the glass is half empty or half full, but that the 1% claims that it is their glass." ---Stolen from a post on Daily Kos

      by jestbill on Wed Aug 21, 2013 at 04:21:52 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  My NY Oxford up 11% n/t (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Puddytat, corvo, qofdisks
  •  Gee, ya think? (8+ / 0-)
    “I think that’s because, if we look at this as a long term trend, health care costs have increased in excess of wages and inflation.”
    We've gotten a raise, ANY raise, about 1 year in 5, and each time it's been 2%.  Meanwhile we've seen DOUBLE DIGIT rates of increase in our health premiums about every other year.

    "The extinction of the human race will come from its inability to EMOTIONALLY comprehend the exponential function." -- Edward Teller

    by lgmcp on Wed Aug 21, 2013 at 12:53:37 PM PDT

  •  Our insurance is going up (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    corvo, TJ, bryduck, qofdisks

    Health Care Insurance is going up 14.2% starting Sept 1st.

    Dental is going up 42%!

    Vision, which sucks, is staying the same.

    The lady from the insurance company got up in front of our all staff meeting a couple of weeks ago and blamed, "Obamacare."

    •  Classic. Of course, (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      bsegel, corvo, qofdisks

      we've had that kind of comment here on DKos, too. Truth is, without actual hard regulation, there is no brake on insurance costs other than the magic of The Market, and given the oligopolistic nature of the insurance scam business, there's no magic there at all.

      "Lone catch of the moon, the roots of the sigh of an idea there will be the outcome may be why?"--from a spam diary entitled "The Vast World."

      by bryduck on Wed Aug 21, 2013 at 01:01:21 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Obama and Sebelius need to put out graphs (0+ / 0-)

    showing the annual increases over the last decade to show the more complete picture.  Otherwise any increase will be blamed on Obamacare when they would have increased regardless, and probably larger.  

    If you're not talking about what billionaire hedgefund bankster Peter G. Peterson is up to you're having the wrong conversations.

    by Jacoby Jonze on Wed Aug 21, 2013 at 01:18:57 PM PDT

  •  Oh, but I thought the problem was that (6+ / 0-)

    people were choosing not to buy insurance because they were selfish jerks, and that's why we needed the individual mandate, to force those jerks to buy it.

    Now you're telling me that the reason so many people don't buy insurance is cause it's super fucking expensive? Well gee golly jeepers, who would have thought? Kinda makes the whole premise of the ACA seem wrong-headed from the start, don't it?

    So the ACA is only going to slow the ever-increasing growth of healthcare costs, which are still going to be felt by everyone. Well, no fucking duh. I'm really curious as to what the "next step" is going to be to bring down costs, especially now that we're all being compelled to give money to the healthcare beast.

    It's almost as though the whole for-profit system is inherently broken. But I fail to see how the individual mandate (which locks everyone into the private system) is a stepping stone for tearing down the private system. I mean, what?

    Banking on the American people to be able to sort all this out and declare the adult in the room the winner is a very big bet. -Digby

    by Boogalord on Wed Aug 21, 2013 at 01:21:35 PM PDT

    •  It isn't, of course. (7+ / 0-)
      It's almost as though the whole for-profit system is inherently broken. But I fail to see how the individual mandate (which locks everyone into the private system) is a stepping stone for tearing down the private system. I mean, what?
      The purpose of the ACA was to preserve the for-profit system.

      Dogs from the street can have all the desirable qualities that one could want from pet dogs. Most adopted stray dogs are usually humble and exceptionally faithful to their owners as if they are grateful for this kindness. -- H.M. Bhumibol Adulyadej

      by corvo on Wed Aug 21, 2013 at 01:34:21 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  "bending the curve" (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    corvo, Willa Rogers, qofdisks

    "Bending the cost curve" is nice, but it isn't helping people that much if it's still a positively sloping curve. One really can't criticize people for not being overjoyed and overflowing with gratitude when their premiums are still going up--just not as much as they would have, considering past trends.

    The escalation of health care costs slowed under Clinton and just went right back up (and then some) under Bush. See the slopes in the chart here. So, one year (or even a few) does not an enduring trend make, sadly.

  •  Still need tough cost controls (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    htowngenie, Willa Rogers

    Still need to put the brakes on over-testing and over-medicating; over-use of expensive technology; still need more cost-effectiveness analysis; still need to open Medicare drugs up to competition from outside the US.

    "The test of our progress is not whether we add to the abundance of those who have much. It is whether we provide enough to those who have little. " --Franklin D. Roosevelt

    by jg6544 on Wed Aug 21, 2013 at 01:31:52 PM PDT

  •  Somehow I get the feeling (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    qofdisks

    this diary was supposed to relate a success story.

    I don't get the impression it succeeded.

    Dogs from the street can have all the desirable qualities that one could want from pet dogs. Most adopted stray dogs are usually humble and exceptionally faithful to their owners as if they are grateful for this kindness. -- H.M. Bhumibol Adulyadej

    by corvo on Wed Aug 21, 2013 at 01:34:56 PM PDT

  •  The insurance companies know they are a few (0+ / 0-)

    years away from single payer and are gorging their coffers until they can adequately diversify.

    Building a better America with activism, cooperation, ingenuity and snacks.

    by judyms9 on Wed Aug 21, 2013 at 01:35:48 PM PDT

  •  When preserving the ability to make money (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    BalanceSeeker, qofdisks

    is as important a consideration as access to care, profit-based public policy headaches are sure to follow. I think the ACA will do better than expected in terms of people participating in the exchanges, and this will be a good thing. But, in the end, money money money. Always the dollars. Corporations are going to find a way to fuck as many people for the bottom line as they can get away with to make their shareholders happy.

    I'm a liberal who, to my great discredit, had to try everything else under the sun before he got to liberal. Now, after some serious time left of center, I get why getting to where I ended up was like pulling teeth. The Heads Conservatives win, Tails non-Conservatives lose nature of what is possible in American policy.

    The whole point of doing this the way we did was to get conservatives to vote for it. Only, they didn't. Fine. The fight to pass the policy is over. That was then, this is now.

    Only.

    No. It isn't.  

    Reforming the ACA as we go is where this dynamic is going to be a whole new level of bad faith fueled total political pain in the ass.

    What bothers me is that non-Conservatives now essentially own a Movement Conservative policy experiment that is thought of as liberal policy, bonus gall that it is cast as "socialism" by the very conservative movement that proposed a lot of it's core ideas and then refused to support them because a Democrat who happened to be a person of color took those ideas from hypothetical to policy and law.

    The fixes that are going to be needed will be needed because Movement Conservative assumptions about the way systems work will be wrong, and outcomes won't be what they predicted, and the more effective solutions will be more liberal because they will have to be. Then those more actually liberal, or at least non-Conservative in origin, policy fixes will obstructed on the basis that the flaws in the ACA are the result of liberal public policy failures, so, why more and more liberalism as the fix?

    It's the best of both worlds if you are a Rightwing hack.

    You get your policy in place, it's your assumptions and your predictions about how the world works, but you don't own it politically and you get to cast the more non-Conservative policy fixes as things to be avoided at all costs as "more liberalism" is the last thing we need.

    It's going to be politically harder to fix until the GOP finds itself in it's final demographics hell after the next ten to twenty years, not easier.

    Every healthcare policy related headache is going to be owned by the Democratic Party, even when that is grossly unfair or profoundly dishonest on its face.

    It will be infuriating when the failings and flaws of the most conservative alternative to more public sector based options is cited by conservatives as the reason why more robust reform should not be trusted or enacted because "liberalism has been tried and failed" will be the charge every time a conservative idea doesn't work as it was imagined by the Heritage Foundation or the American Enterprise Institute. Each and every time there is a flaw that needs to be fixed from here on out, it's going to be laid at liberalism's feet when it's a think tank conservative, albeit 90's era, way of doing public policy repurposed in the hopes of producing a progressive outcome.

    When it comes time to reform the reform, each and every time, the bad faith argument made by the Right will be that the alternative to Conservative policy has failed and that new Teahadi era conservatism is the only way to go to fix problem x, y, and z. The same media that gave us "both sides do it too" and "report the controversy" aren't going to be much help when this does come up.

    It's a conservative policy regime. The reason the GOP has no alternative to it, besides the whole objection to passing any healthcare reform regime besides the status quo at all and all the bad faith that goes with it, is that fundamentally this was the best free market based overhaul they could get. Everything else was more government involved and more public based.

    The fight is just going to shift from bad faith in the proposal of reform, to bad faith in the fixing of it.

    The idea that you might not be able to fix and maintain the ACA in a timely and effective manner as each new problem arises, as there is and will be a great dead-enders incentive on the Right to keep it broken and hobbled once it becomes clear even to them that it cannot be repealed or terminated finally sinks in is a clear threat, is right there.

    And non-Conservatives predictions of the Movement Conservative Right's fleeting tenacity to be dead-enders shouldn't be forgotten. Each and every time it has been predicted that the dead-enders would see reality and accept it has been pretty seriously wrong.

    At some point, we are going to get the most robust change when the failing system finally shits the bed despite all the best efforts to avoid the pain and suffering of such a national systemic bed shitting. And that is the greatest public policy tragedy of them all.

    I am a Loco-Foco. I am from the Elizabeth Warren wing of the Democratic Party.

    by LeftHandedMan on Wed Aug 21, 2013 at 01:59:16 PM PDT

  •  Family coverage now averages $16,000/year... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    qofdisks

    ...that's a scandal, not a talking point in favor of PPACA, especially when there are additional out-of-pocket costs each year on top of the premiums.

    And no, it doesn't matter if taxpayers will be picking up the slack by offering subsidies to those who qualify: It's still a huge amount of money for the government to be subsidizing, and a reason why PPACA should have included price controls (beyond the ludicrous 20 percent profit guaranteed by the MLR, which actually incentivizes higher costs on the provider end), and huge expense/excuse for employers.

    Between student loans, mandated and costly private health insurance, and the lack of meaningful financial-industry regulation, it's getting really rough out there (out here!) for the middle class. (And by "middle class" I don't mean those households earning $400,000/year, as our legislators do.)

  •  Employee share rising? (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    qofdisks

    I have a number of friends who report that the percentage of the premium that they have to pay is going up, sometimes substantially. If that's widespread, employers are the main beneficiaries of the lower-increase in premiums.

    I'm curious how many people will qualify for coverage through the exchanges because although they have access to coverage at work, it costs way more than the 9.5% threshold. I'm guessing it's a lot.

  •  Lies (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    qofdisks

    4% huh?  Try $379 to $421 per month and see if that fits into "just 4%".  Hmm.. 11% into 4%... and the prior year was "only" 9.5%

    And thats for a lame ass high deductible plan.  Where on earth are they getting their stats.

  •  Bull pucky (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    qofdisks

    Mine went up 20% last year and 20% this year.

    "Mr. President, I'm not saying we wouldn't get our hair mussed. But I do say no more than ten to twenty million killed, tops." General Buck Turgidson

    by muledriver on Wed Aug 21, 2013 at 08:15:52 PM PDT

  •  My premiums went up again (0+ / 0-)

    By roughly the same percentage as they do every year. Automatically. My insurer, Anthem/Wellpoint, has also started monkeywrenching with their payment methods. For instance, coverage for mental health counseling has always been a simple co-pay arrangement. Go to the counselor, pay your co-pay, get treatment. This year, however, Anthem started rolling-out a change to their mental health coverage.

    Now, instead of a co-pay, counseling is an out-of-pocket expense, applied to your deductible. This has the effect of raising patient cost from $30-40, up to $80-100 or more each time you see a counselor/psychologist. This is an enormous cost increase, especially when you consider that mental health treatments are often on an every-week basis. This change will effectively eliminate the ability of many people to afford needed therapy.

    The capper is that, if you ask an Anthem CSR about this change, the company line is that it was always supposed to be this way, but they'd been mistakenly been treating mental health as a copay service for the past 30 years or so. Uh huh.

  •  I'd be thrilled at a 4% increase (0+ / 0-)

    I'm a low user of health care services and every single year for the past decade I've had premium increases of 17%-34% for my high deductible policy.  Last year was 34%, so for the 3rd time this decade I switched policies to one with a higher deductible, going from $1,500 to my current $5,500 over 10 years.  At least I was lucky enough to be accepted; many people are not.  But the relief was short lived, after one year I had another 24% increase.

    I certainly don't have wages that go up more than 15% a year.  In fact, the only people I can think of who do are those who run health insurance companies.  The system is designed to get rid of anyone who actually needs health care, and while the new laws should help we are a long way from making health care affordable for all.

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