Health Care Costs Are Still Rising Faster Than Workers Can Keep Up


After a decade of rapid increases, employer-provided health care costs are still rising faster than our paychecks can keep up.
According to a new report from the Kaiser Family Foundation, the average annual premium for families and individuals increased to $US16,351 and $US5,884, respectively, in 2013. Both costs have risen more than twice as fast as wage growth (1.8%) and four times as fast as inflation (1.1%).

The big picture is even tougher to digest.

Health premiums shot up more than 80% over the last decade, the report shows, for both employers and employees. Businesses have seen their costs rise 80% since 2003, while their employees now pay 89% more for health care.

On top of that, today more than one-third of workers are enrolled in health plans that come with at least a $US1,000 deductible, meaning they are out a thousand bucks before their insurance even kicks in, Kaiser found.

There’s at least one positive side to the report, however. The rate of health care cost growth seemed to stagnate this year, which should help assuage some fears over whether the introduction of the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) would mean higher premiums across the board.

“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 in statement.

But it’s not fair to credit Obamacare entirely for the slowdown in health care costs.

Economists argue that the lackluster economic recovery is leading Americans to seek out less health care services and point to the trend of employers keeping premiums lower by shifting costs into higher deductibles and co-pays,” writes Think Progress’ Igor Volsky. “But certain structural changes in the health care system may also be at play, including the ‘less rapid development of new medical care treatments,’ greater reliance on generic drugs and more efficient provider practices.”

Also helping matters, the majority of businesses are stepping in to make their workers healthier as a whole. More than three-quarters of employers offer at least one wellness program and nearly 60% offer at least one disease management program, Kaiser found.

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