Health Insurance Eating Into Incomes

Sep 28, 2004
George Anderson

By George Anderson

The average worker in the U.S. with private health insurance has seen the costs for premiums increase 35.9 percent between 2000 and 2004 while the size of their paycheck grew only 12.4 percent.

That is the analysis of the Lewin Group, a private health economics consulting firm, using data from federal health agencies as well as the U.S. Census Bureau and Labor Department.

The sponsor of the research, Families USA, issued a public statement, which said, “These grim findings explain why health care costs and coverage have become a top-priority concern for America’s families over the past four years.”

Employers also saw an increase in premiums paid, albeit slightly lower than that being picked up by employees at 31.8 percent.

According to the report, insurance premiums are rising primarily because more money is being paid out to hospitals, doctors and for prescription drugs.

The growing number of Americans without health insurance is also a factor, reports USA Today, “because costs of treating the uninsured that are not covered by government programs are passed along to others.”

Moderator’s Comment: What impact is the rising cost of healthcare having on the retail industry and related businesses? Should the industry be pushing
for specific action by Washington to address what some are calling a crisis situation?

Steve Burd, Safeway’s chairman and chief, once told the San Francisco Chronicle, “You’re looking at the only food retailing chief executive officer
that has ever gone to Congress and lobbied for some kind of national health care. We have de facto universal coverage in this country. It doesn’t really cost $1,500 a day to stay
in a hospital. It’s just that the uninsured get cared for, and we all pay for it.”

Based on the Lewin Group’s analysis, we should be looking at the fees being charged by doctors and what pharmaceutical companies are charging for prescription
medicines first if we want to get healthcare costs under control, but Mr. Burd is correct that something needs to be done about the price we all pay for the uninsured.

George Anderson – Moderator

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