Robbing Peter

No time for commentary on the Baucus bill now (if you want that, go here or here), but I’m pretty surprised this Kaiser Family Foundation report isn’t getting more attention. Here’s the Washington Post:

As businesses contend with rising costs, many workers face an erosion of health benefits next year, according to an annual survey released Tuesday by the Kaiser Family Foundation and the Health Research and Educational Trust.

Forty percent of employers surveyed said they are likely to increase the amount their workers pay out of pocket for doctor visits. Almost as many said they are likely to raise annual deductibles and the amount workers pay for prescription drugs.

Nine percent said they plan to tighten eligibility for health benefits; 8 percent said they plan to drop coverage entirely. Forty-one percent of employers said they are “somewhat” or “very” likely to increase the amount employees pay in premiums — though that would not necessarily mean employees would pay a higher percentage of the premiums. Employers could simply be passing along the same share of the overall increase that they are doing this year.

Because health insurance is paid for from pretax income directly by our employers, most people don’t know how much they pay for care or why ballooning spending is a problem. When you talk about spending that comprises 1/6 of the economy, you’re talking about a lot of money. And while some people get a better deal than others, the simple fact of the matter is that we are all paying for this.

I was struck earlier today by the story of a health care company that urged its employees to contact their Senators and Representatives to dissuade them from slashing payments for the service they provide. The company warned that their livelihood was at stake, and I’m sure many employees took action. I just wonder though how quick these employees might leap to the phone if it were explained to them that the payments they were working to protect were coming directly out of their paycheck. That in effect, they were paying for their raise with their own money.


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