I just finished signing up for health insurance through my employer. It's a task that I dread every year for a variety of reasons.
One, I hate the paperwork involved. This year was worse than most because we had to sign up on the computer and it took much longer to complete than previous years. And two, I have to decide what level of coverage I want for my family and which level of risk I'm willing to assume – do I want to pay more and have better coverage or am I willing to take a chance that my husband, myself and none of our three youngest sons will need to go to the doctor much this year? In the past 10 years that I have worked at the Wisconsin Agriculturist, we have only met our deductible one year. I realize I shouldn't be complaining about that – good health shouldn't be taken for granted. But the escalating cost of health insurance is causing both my family and my employer to pay a whole lot more.
I know, I know, many of you reading this column are paying a whole lot more than the $550 per month I am shelling out for my family's health insurance. But at the same time I am spending $6,600 per year for health insurance, my employer is spending another $1,250 per month for my family's health insurance for a whopping $15,600 per year. This is all before we make one visit to see the doctor or pick up one prescription. That's a total of $22,200 a year which I find outrageous.
In 2002, my previous employer provided an HMO insurance option which cost me $100 per month to insure my entire family and there was no deductible! Even with the best coverage available, this year we will pay $600 per person or $1,200 per family before our insurance will pay anything.
Many of you who don't have a spouse working off the farm with benefits are paying $1,200 a month or more for coverage that doesn't kick in until you meet $10,000 or more in deductibles. That basically protects you from catastrophic illness or injury and little more.
Since 2002, employer-sponsored health coverage for family premiums increased by 97%, according to data compiled by the federal government. With deductibles skyrocketing, it's no wonder many people I know put off going to the doctor or getting tests done like colonoscopies which save lives but can cost as much as $6,000.
Today, health care costs eat up 18% of the average U.S. family's income. Contrast that with 1970 when the average family spent just 7.2% of their income on health care.
During that same time, food costs have gone in the opposite direction. In 1970, the average U.S. household spent 18% of their income on food. Today, 9% of a family's income goes for food. Apparently the extra savings on food is being eaten up by health care.
What concerns me is how much will health insurance premiums and health care costs rise in the next 10 years? Who is to blame? I'm no expert, but I would say it's a combination of greedy insurance companies medical providers and drug companies. I'm sure some of you blame the government. Whether you are a Republican or a Democrat, a conservative or a liberal, I think you should be mad about how much you are paying for your health care and how little you are getting in return for that expense.