The Militant (logo)  

Vol. 74/No. 36      September 27, 2010

Workers pay more,
get less health care
(front page)
Health-care costs for family insurance jumped by 14 percent to $4,000 over the past year, according to a recent report issued by the Kaiser Family Foundation and the Health Research and Educational Trust.

The survey, which was conducted between January and May, showed that workers are paying more and getting less, despite promises by the Barack Obama administration that the Affordable Health Care for America Act passed by Congress in March would provide more coverage and reduce workers’ medical bills.

Administration officials had said that premiums would rise no more than 2 percent on average this year under the new law. Aetna and BlueCross BlueShield plans, however, project premium raises this year of up to 9 percent for individuals and small businesses. Workers covered by other carriers “could face total premium increases of more than 20 percent,” reported the Wall Street Journal.

Rising premium payments together with virtually stagnant pay raises over the past decade have steadily whittled away workers’ standard of living. The amount that workers contribute to health insurance premiums has jumped 158 percent since 1999, compared to a 42 percent rise in wages and 31 percent general inflation.

Of the 2,000 employers the report surveyed, 30 percent said they have reduced employee health benefits while 23 percent raised the amount workers must pay.

Many workers are being forced to shift to PPO plans (preferred provider organizations), which offer somewhat lower premium rates but with higher deductibles before insurance coverage kicks in. According to the report, 58 percent of workers covered by company insurance are enrolled in PPOs. More than 25 percent have an annual deductible of at least $1,000 for single coverage and much higher for families.

Copayments for doctor visits, which are required by most insurance plans, rose 10 percent. In addition workers must pay higher out-of-pocket expenses for hospital admission or outpatient surgery.

With rising costs “young employed adults forgo buying coverage as a way to save money,” noted CNNMoney. For retirees, only 28 percent of companies with 200 or more employees offer health benefits. For smaller companies 3 percent do.  
Steep Medicaid cuts
Citing Congress’s failure to provide additional funds for Medicaid, states are taking steps to slash this program, which covers health expenses for those with low incomes. States are “laying plans to cut hundred of thousands of Medicaid enrollees,” reported the Journal, “and pare services such as dental care, organ transplants, insulin pumps and over-the-counter medications in the coming months.”

If federal money does not come through, the Arizona state government projects eliminating about 320,000 childless adults from the program. “Michigan and North Carolina have also slated provisional cuts,” noted the Journal. “California plans to limit Medicaid payment for certain over-the-counter drugs and doctor visits” regardless of whether federal Medicaid funds are provided.

Medicare is also on the chopping block. The federal health care law projects $500 billion in cuts over the next decade.  
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