The scale of premiums & co-pay increases will shock you. Millions seeking “affordable” premiums from bogus insurers find themselves bankrupt. Millions of sick people have no choice but to go without coverage. This is ugly.
Steep Healthcare Costs Highlight Importance of Healthcare for All & NM Health Security Act
Today’s report is shocking and, I hope, will create more passionate advocates for universal healthcare coverage. What is happening in America today, largely because of the greed of the healthcare industry, unfettered medical and pharmaceutical costs, the shortcomings of the Affordable Care Act, and the sinister actions of the Trump regime, leaves employers, workers, and the working poor vulnerable to an unfair share of the cost of healthcare, a situation that is financially unsustainable and immoral.
Recognizing an opportunity to bleed more out of vulnerable Americans, bogus insurance plans are surfacing everywhere, with purchasers of these plans feeling as if they are covered, and at lower premiums. But these plans have one major failing: if you get sick, you will go bankrupt. These bogus plans could only exist in a context of soaring healthcare premiums and as the chart below illustrates, the last ten years have seen unremitting increases in those premiums, creating an environment ripe for exploitation.
According to a Bloomberg report, a Kaiser Family Foundation survey found that the average total cost (employer and employee share) now exceeds $20,000 a year. This represents almost a 300% increase over the past ten years.
It’s as much as buying a basic economy car,” said Drew Altman, chief executive officer of the Kaiser Family Foundation, “but buying it every year.”Bloomberg
As this second chart depicts, the soaring costs of premiums and deductibles completely outstrip any income gains experienced by workers over the past ten years.
Kaiser took 2009 as a baseline and examined the rise in workers’ earnings, overall inflation, family premiums, and deductibles. The bind that employers and workers are finding themselves in is reflected in the chart above. While worker earnings have risen almost 25%, most of that is consumed by inflation while premiums and deductibles are soaring, causing many employers to eliminate or scale back coverage, leaving workers increasingly vulnerable. Indeed fewer workers are covered by employer offered health plans now than in 2009, despite 17 million more workers entering the work force since then. And who is most vulnerable? The working poor, of course.
In firms where more than 35% of employees earn less than $25,000 a year, workers have to contribute more than $7,000 for a family health plan. It’s an expense that Altman calls “just flat-out not affordable.” Only one-third of employees at such firms are on their employer’s health plans, compared with 63% at higher-wage firms, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation’s data. “
One strategy being employed by insurers and employer offered health plans is to reduce or hold steady premiums, but that only results in vast increases in the deductibles you pay if and when you get sick.
While raising deductibles can moderate premiums, it also increases costs for people with an illness or who get hurt. “Cost-sharing is a tax on the sick,” said Mark Fendrick, director of the Center for Value-Based Insurance Design at the University of Michigan. “
The ever socially responsible Donald Trump and his GOP cohorts came up with a unique solution. According to Bloomberg Business:
When the Republican-controlled Senate failed in 2017 to pass Trump-backed legislation that would have gutted the ACA, the administration instead seized on the loophole allowing consumers to buy certain noncompliant plans. Trump used an executive order to extend the time limit for temporary plans, which he and other Republicans talked up as a potential solution for cash-strapped consumers. ”
So what do individuals and families do if they can’t afford coverage? They fall prey to unscrupulous capitalists who, seeing an opportunity, develop bogus “noncompliant” plans and devote huge resources not into coverage but into misleading marketing campaigns. From Bloomberg Business:
Aetna Inc. and some other big insurers had been dropping off the state exchanges created for consumers to buy compliant plans, leaving a void that “junk insurers,” as critics tagged them, rushed to fill. A recent study by Sabrina Corlette, a research professor at Georgetown University’s Health Policy Institute, showed that ads for such plans often appeared at the top of internet searches for the government-run marketplaces. Health insurance also became the most common product pitched in robocalls—responsible, according to call-blocking service YouMail, for 387 million calls this April alone.
These non-compliant plans work exactly as designed, offering lower, more affordable premiums and peace of mind that individuals and families can actually afford healthcare — until they get sick. When I note that the plans work as designed, that is because the business model calls for billing monthly for coverage, banking the premiums, and then skipping out when someone becomes ill.
Bloomberg Business offered the case of the Diaz family who bought one of these non-compliant plans. All was fine until David Diaz awoke to a massive heart attack. He was rushed to the hospital and the healthcare system worked perfectly. David’s life was saved and he returned home two weeks later. Unfortunately, while the healthcare system worked, the health coverage industry failed miserably.
Six months after David’s surgery, the Diaz family got a particularly big surprise bill—an error, Marisia thought when she saw the invoice. But when she called her insurer, she was told she’d have to pay the full amount: $244,447.91. “
This is the result when a capitalist system is not regulated. This is the result when healthcare coverage is a product, not a right, when costs are not shared by all of us, and when the government cannot control healthcare costs. The consequences of this collusion of greed are compromising the health of millions of Americans, and this is just another manifestation of what you get when government is controlled by capitalist corporatists whose only objective is to increase profits.
In such a context, we have the fossil fuel industry continuing to enjoy huge governmental subsidies while choking the planet. We have the gun lobby and the gun industry continuing their unrestricted proliferation of assault weapons while children live in fear at school, communities across America grieve, and politicians beholden to the gun industry can only wring their hands and offer condolences.
If you connect the dots, most every human and community need is now held hostage to corporations, and while the 1% continue to accumulate wealth, the rest of us exist in a world where so many are one health incident away from bankruptcy, one gun violence incident away from a life of grief, and 20 years away from unimaginable climate catastrophe.
Time to Retake Our Democracy. Please share this post and make a habit of doing so. We need to wake more people up to what we are subject to.
Click here to read the full Bloomberg report: Healthcare Insurance Costs Surpass $20,000 a Year Breaking a Record.
Click here to read the full Bloomberg Business report: Health Insurance that Doesn’t Cover the Bills Flood the Market Under Trump.
In solidarity, Paul and Roxanne