Home > Uncategorized > Unhealthy healthcare: workers pay

Unhealthy healthcare: workers pay

from David Ruccio


On Tuesday, I began a series on the unhealthy state of the U.S. healthcare system—starting with the fact that the United States spends far more on health than any other country, yet the life expectancy of the American population is actually shorter than in other countries that spend far less.

Today, I want to look at what U.S. workers are forced to pay to get access to the healthcare system.
According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, about half of the non-elderly population—147 million people in total—are covered by employer-sponsored insurance programs.* The average annual single coverage premium in 2015 was $6,251 and the average family coverage premium was $17,545. Each rose 4 percent over the 2014 average premiums. During the same period, workers’ wages increased only 1.9 percent while prices declined by 0.2 percent.

But the gap is even larger when looked at over the long run. Between 1999 and 2015, workers’ contributions to premiums increased by a whopping 221 percent, even more than the growth in health insurance premiums (203 percent), and far outpacing both inflation (42 percent) and workers’ earnings (56 percent).


Most covered workers face additional out-of-pocket costs when they use health care services. Eighty-one percent of covered workers have a general annual deductible for single coverage that must be met before most services are paid for by the plan.** Since 2010, there has also been a sharp increase in both the percentage of workers on health plans with deductibles—which require members to pay a certain amount toward their care before the plan starts paying—and the size of those deductibles. The result has been a 67-percent rise in deductibles (for single coverage) since 2010, far outpacing not only the 24-percent growth in premiums, but also the 10-percent growth in workers’ wages and 9-percent rise in inflation.

In recent years, the increase in U..S. health costs has in fact slowed down. But the slowdown has been invisible to American workers, who have been forced to pay much higher premiums and deductibles in order to get access to healthcare for themselves and their families.
*Fifty-seven percent of firms offer health benefits to at least some of their employees, covering about 63 percent workers at those firms.

**Even workers without a general annual deductible often face other types of cost sharing when they use services, such as copayments or coinsurance for office visits and hospitalizations, and when they purchase prescription drugs.

  1. Val
    August 27, 2016 at 9:44 pm

    Your article has been cut off on the right side of the page.
    Is it possible to fix it?
    This is an important article especially for me as I live in France.
    Who would live in the USA if they knew health care was easy and affordable outside of it?

  2. David Chester
    August 27, 2016 at 10:01 pm

    Those responsible for health care are trying to make it as profitable for themselves and they are not concerned with national life expectancy or individual suffering. The drug companies are similarly making themselves busy and charging high prices for their products, so as to keep employed a lot of experimental scientists without wanting to solve medical problems only to write papers and inflate their own standing.

    They are evil managers who care only for themselves. A test for a manager and a scientist working for peoples’ health should be introduced, where the moral status of the manager or scientist relating to the quality and amount of care and usefulness provided is a major criterion for employment, at least in public-run institutions. When will managers become responsible for more than those whom they manage?

  3. Larry Motuz
    August 29, 2016 at 5:05 pm

    Workers are paying more and more for less and less is the basic message here. And, this will continue until a practical public option is introduced.

  4. Connor
    August 30, 2016 at 4:50 am

    The rising drug cost is a function of fewer drugs making it through FDA approval and the cost of research per drug increasing, not profits of the industry increasing, nor is it because of “evil” managers.

    John Lechleiter, former CEO of Lilly writes in the WSJ,

    “There are real solutions to lowering drug prices such as, ‘For example, pooling access to potential new molecules and sharing “pre-competitive” research on promising treatment paths could avoid costly duplication. Industry and the FDA could ramp up the use of “adaptive clinical trials” that refocus themselves based on real-time findings rather than starting over. And large-scale efforts to capture the real-world outcomes of treatments in genetically profiled patients—and feed these insights back to R&D labs—would accelerate progress significantly,'”

    Real, meaningful, innovative solutions exist, which we can all agree upon.

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