The Spark

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx

Priced out of Health Care

Dec 7, 2009

The average annual premium for private health insurance today runs $4,824 for an individual and $13,375 for a family. That’s roughly double what it was nine years ago.

Outrageous costs dump most workers into low-priced policies – paid for either by the employer or by themselves. And, with such policies, we make big payments before insurance covers anything. Our part of the annual insurance premium for the “cheap” policies may be “only” $1,000 to $3,500 a year, depending on, among other things, whether we have a family and on whether we have coverage through an employer. But then we are hit with a deductible running as much as $1,500 to $4,000 a year, again dependent on family status and employment benefits. In other words, we could be coughing up as much as $7,500 each year before our insurance pays a single bill.

But the medical system isn’t done with us. Once we get past those obstacles, those of us with “low-premium” policies have co-pays on the bills running sometimes 10% or 20% or even more.

Ten% doesn’t sound like much? Consider this: The AVERAGE price for a short hospital stay after a heart attack came to $54,400 in 2007. A 10% co-pay gets you a bill for $5,440; 20% co-pay and it comes to almost $11,000.

Medical care is so expensive that it literally is expected to drive 900,000 households – or 2.6 million people – into bankruptcy this year. That’s not because people had no insurance – in 2008, eight out of every ten people who declared bankruptcy due to medical costs had insurance when they fell ill.

They went bankrupt because their insurance – just like most people’s insurance – did not nearly cover the outrageous costs.

This is a health care system that cries out for reform. But the so-called “reform” working its way through Congress today does nothing to lower these costs.

It will force more people to buy insurance from profit-driven companies. But who benefits from that? Only the medical care industry that has already deformed health care in this country.