Question for the room.

A guided discussion for the room today, if you please. (And yes, you can jump in on another topic if you like; I just want to keep this one moving.)

It’s open-enrollment season for benefits at many workplaces, and I’m wondering what’s happening to the cost of your employee-provided health insurance. It’s rising, of course — the cost of insurance hasn’t failed to rise annually in my decades of my work experience — but by how much? And how is it being sold to employees?

Juuuust wondering.

Out late last night again, missed my blogging window, but this was a topic that came up, so that’s why I ask.

Or you can talk about slippers again. I’ll be back tomorrow.

Posted at 7:47 am in Current events |

40 responses to “Question for the room.”

  1. coozledad said on October 3, 2013 at 8:30 am

    Our premiums went down immediately after the house passed Obamacare. Aetna was starting to shit razors that their consumer base would drift away because let consumers compare rates. The free market sucks ass for skimmers.

    They’re better than our previous insurer, National, who siphoned better than six hundred bucks a month off of us until they just up and dropped us. There’s a corporation/people that Romney would have had a root beer with, m’ friend. Folks who ought to die in a goddamn fire.

    514 chars

  2. alex said on October 3, 2013 at 8:48 am

    I have a couple of sessions of Obamacare Explained coming up soon—one at my place of employment and one through a professional organization on whose board I serve as treasurer. Don’t know yet what the gist will be but in these parts I expect it will be anything from straight-up factual to anarcho-conservative.

    In 2008 following the election of President Obama, I was treated to a lecture by a benefits planner employed by a stock brokerage who gave a luncheon presentation on the mortgage crisis. He read from a laughable and deeply cynical Ben Stein screed positing that the crisis was caused by Barney Frank and civil rights activists forcing banks to loan money to welfare queens and expecting all of us nice middle-income white people to pay for their profligacy. I walked out and resigned from the organization that invited this clown, but since then they made amends and convinced me to come back.

    I, for one, am very happy about Obamacare. My partner will finally have decent health insurance. Although he makes good money, his employer doesn’t provide health benefits and the cost has been simply prohibitive. He’s supposed to be on meds that cost about $500 a month and sometimes he has to do without. He has a collection agency dogging him over a $12,000 hospital visit that would have cost one-tenth as much had he been insured and likely would have cost him nothing out of pocket. That catastrophe came about because a doctor at an urgent care clinic told him he might be having a pulmonary embolism and needed to go to the hospital immediately; given such advice, would anyone go home and wring their hands over how they’re going to pay for it? Good thing he didn’t have a pulmonary embolism or he’d be on the hook for a hundred grand right now. Fortunately for us, we live in a state that will never recognize marriage equality so no one can come after my assets in order to satisfy his debts.

    1919 chars

  3. alex said on October 3, 2013 at 9:19 am

    My congressman seldom speaks the truth about anything, but for once he’s been caught in a moment of candor. This should elevate his profile and make him the perfect veep pick for Ted Cruz in 2016.

    317 chars

  4. Julie Robinson said on October 3, 2013 at 9:35 am

    Good job finding the silver lining, Alex.

    My hubby gets his insurance covered but we pay full freight for mine, and with premiums of about 10K I’ll be taking a hard look at the alternatives. Since we haven’t gotten workplace info yet I haven’t tried to access the ACA site. A preliminary look using the Kaiser Family Foundation’s calculator indicates no subsidy and premium for the silver plan at 6K. So, if I like what I see for coverage and networks, it’s likely I’ll change.

    Neither of our kids has insurance right now, but they’ll acquire it some time in the new year with their new positions. It’s unclear to me if they’ll have to buy in for a couple of months before their’s kicks in.

    (Is their’s the proper punctuation? It looks wrong to me but I can’t figure out why.)

    788 chars

  5. LAMary said on October 3, 2013 at 9:35 am

    I can’t complain. I pay about 50 dollars a month for myself and the two boys. We have a 2000 dollar deductible, but if I do a basic health screening exam I get 1400 deposited in an HSA (health savings account). I can do additions to that from my paycheck. It’s not an FSA so the money rolls over. No rushing to use it by year end. My dental is about 20 a month and vision is about 10. We get life insurance equal to twice our annual salary and we can increase that with paycheck contribution. I’m told there will not be an increase in employee contribution for next year, and since I have to tell people I’m hiring about benefits, I’m confident that’s the case.

    661 chars

  6. Fritinancy said on October 3, 2013 at 9:50 am

    I’m self-employed in California and am covered through Kaiser. My premium is going up 22%, to about $7,500 a year — which is about half of what I’d pay if I were still with HealthNet. I have a $40 co-pay for office visits. Luckily, I’m healthy and rarely see a doctor … but of course that could change in an instant.

    I used to get group coverage through Media Alliance, but seven or eight years ago the insurance “community” decided MA was too trifling for them to deal with, and they cut us all off.

    @Julie: Trust that instinct. No apostrophe in “theirs” (or hers, ours, or possessive its).

    602 chars

  7. Jolene said on October 3, 2013 at 10:09 am

    Julie, the coverage you could get under the ACA will almost certainly be superior to what you have now given the requirements that policies sold under the ACA must meet. Seems like the main issue for you would be making sure that the network for your policy includes the practitioners you use now, assuming, of course, that you want to continue with them.

    Fritinancy, have you checked what the ACA has to offer you?

    418 chars

  8. Julie Robinson said on October 3, 2013 at 10:13 am

    @Fritinancy, thanks. Our school district went through an experimental phase of not teaching grammar rules to my generation. Who knows why; it was the seventies. Since I read a lot, I generally have a vague idea if something’s right or wrong, but no confidence as to why. And now I have to see my mistake for the rest of the day. Crap!

    334 chars

  9. Bitter Scribe said on October 3, 2013 at 10:13 am

    I just started a new job this week. AFAIK, the health insurance rates are staying the same. My insurance doesn’t kick in until next month, so I had to make the usual awful choice between paying out the nose for COBRA or paying about half of that for a gapper policy with a ridiculously high deductible (I chose the latter).

    323 chars

  10. Peter said on October 3, 2013 at 10:21 am

    I’m covered under my lovely spouse’s plan, and as we expected, the rates are going up by a good chunk – just because.

    I haven’t read too much of the fine print of the act, since small business owners/self proprietorships have to wait a while; which isn’t a big deal with me because I’m a procrastinator and I wouldn’t look into this stuff until December anyway.

    On another matter – it’s nice to see the website back to normal – I was having withdrawals something fierce when this site went haywire.

    504 chars

  11. nancy said on October 3, 2013 at 10:24 am

    What’s “a good chunk,” if you know? I don’t want to be coy here, but I have a personal reason for asking. Can’t be too specific, obviously, but I’m just wondering what everyone else is looking at, and how it’s being explained to employees in the meetings.

    255 chars

  12. beb said on October 3, 2013 at 10:41 am

    As I work for the City health care is mostly covered but rates and co-pays keep going up. I couldn’t tell you by what percent. It’s never that much per year but since our wages never go up it becomes a burden after a while. And our devoted tyrant wants to move as many of us as possible into Obamacare as possible so who knows what’s going to happen.

    Unlike a lot of Detroiters I think the plan to lease Belle Isle to the state for 30 years is probably a good deal for the city. The savings won’t be much but I suspect the state will sock some improvements into the island that it sorely needs.

    597 chars

  13. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on October 3, 2013 at 10:43 am

    8-22% increases are what I’m hearing from colleagues — but the high end is in the collapsing church/clergy pool which is not a good metric.

    My contrarian view (at least among most of my nearest associates, but probably not here) is that let’s hypothesize that the ACA aka ObamaCare never happened. We’d spent the last three years just like we did 1990-93 dithering and ultimately doing nothing. Is there any doubt that a) we’d see more employers trying to get out from under providing health insurance in any way they can, and b) premiums would keep going up?

    In a perverse desire to keep everyone annoyed at me (not true, but it works out that way), I don’t think the ACA will work beyond 2017 without major fixes, wasn’t designed to work, and is a stalking horse for single payer which we may have no choice in a Western market-oriented nodding-towards-libertarian-in-name-only society to get to by backing into it. But I don’t see it crushing the American health care system, or at least ANY WORSE than the increasing pressures on the status quo by retiring Boomers, worse average health in manageable but expensive ways (obesity, diabetes, need for joint replacement, heart bypass), and the contraction of middle-class jobs that once paid in huge portions of what came — largely through employers — into the health insurance pot. With the departure of so much middle management and low-skill semi-professional employment, or the shifting of it to contract only, there’s even more loss of payment to any approach to health care coverage.

    What I’m not hearing anyone say yet is that we need to dump the employer tax credit that is the poison pill underneath the developing problems in payment, and figure out how to ensure that savings goes to wages and not just another short-term profit. McCain & Holtz-Eakin started a conversation about this six years ago, and got so flamed from both sides it’s not come up again, but it’s got to be part of the solution.

    1976 chars

  14. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on October 3, 2013 at 10:45 am

    I think an average total cost increase (employer side and added co-pay) is around 10-12% for places like the college and major employers here in east central Ohio. Non-profits with small pools are seeing the 14-16-18% bumps in cost of coverage.

    244 chars

  15. mark said on October 3, 2013 at 10:45 am

    I’m a contractor, not an employee, so not eligible. i was present at the meeting where changes were explained. Premiums (to the employer) are going up 34%, they claim. From there, it gets complicated. Employee contributions are going up by about 50%, if they choose the ‘traditional plan.’ Most won’t notice the difference, but the new traditional plan is still more comprehensive than they previously had because of ACA minimum requirements (no pre-exising illness exclusions, no mental illness/substance addiction exclusions, etc.). So even the apples-to-apples comparison isn’t.

    The employees are given a second choice, that involves much higher deductibles and co-pays and participation in a Health Savings Account, which, if you are smasrt and healthy/lucky,may produce a better financial outcome. As I recall, employee contributions are going up only slightly (10%?) for this plan.

    Spousal coverage is being eliminated if the spouse is covered through another employer plan.

    Almost all new hiring here is now part-time with a 27 hour/week cap.

    That’s my best recollection, anyway. Good luck to you with your situation.

    1146 chars

  16. mark said on October 3, 2013 at 10:53 am

    Edit: The current employee contribution level was described as unusually small for the relevant sector, so I’m not sure what conclusion can be drawn from the % increase. I don’t get the benefit so I haven’t paid enough attention to know the dollar amounts before or after.

    I think as a general proposition, the further the existing plan is away from the minimum requirements of the ACA, the greater the increase necessary to bring things up to the new standard. I don’t know any good way to do areally fair comparison across all types of plans, old and new. I’m confident that, despite promises, nothing has yet ‘broken the cost curve’ for health care.

    659 chars

  17. Deborah said on October 3, 2013 at 10:58 am

    I’m retired and my husband is self employed and on Medicare so can’t contribute to this conversation.

    I just popped in to say that Charles Pierce has a great piece on Alex’s representative:

    249 chars

  18. alex said on October 3, 2013 at 11:10 am

    Glad to see Stutz the Yutz finally getting the disrespect he so richly deserves.

    Or as one wag put it:

    Disrespect? We’re all the way to disdain already.

    166 chars

  19. coozledad said on October 3, 2013 at 11:59 am


    111 chars

  20. Kevin said on October 3, 2013 at 12:15 pm

    Our insurance plan went up, as it has every year, but my employer is now covering 80% of the cost (last year it was 75%), so thank you, kind employer.

    I’m actually paying a little less out of my check. Co-pays went up a tick, though.

    236 chars

  21. Charlotte said on October 3, 2013 at 12:25 pm

    My Cisco co-workers who are still “real” employees were all griping last fall about insurance increases — probably because the ACA forced insurance companies to actually cover, you know, medical care. Haven’t heard anything so far, but since they laid another 4000 people off yesterday, while John Chambers announced he’s doubling his salary and taking a 4.5 million dollar bonus, well, we’re all distracted.

    I’ve been on a bare-bones catastrophic plan from Blue Cross — they mailed me yesterday and said if I do nothing, they’ll put me on the Bronze plan. I might upgrade to the Silver — I’ll be paying more since I don’t qualify for the subsidies (well, not now anyhow. I have zero job security though) I’ll be paying more for insurance this year. But I don’t mind since I can actually get some care, and my ankles seem to be, well, not bending anymore. My sweetie, who is a carpenter/contractor will get the subsidies and is looking forward to it. We’re both waiting a few days for the glitches in the system to slow down before signing up.

    1050 chars

  22. Heather said on October 3, 2013 at 1:03 pm

    I haven’t heard anything about my premiums increasing–fingers crossed. This company is very good about protecting us from increases; we’ve now got $250 deductibles but the premium has not increased much at all in the four and half years I have been here.

    My sweetie is also a carpenter type and knows he needs health insurance, yet still bitches about the cost for it. It’s galling, especially since he still owes $10,000 from a staph infection some years ago. I think it is one of the few quirks he has inherited from his father, an old-school farmer type who is hale and hearty at 75 and so cheap that he keeps the hot water heater turned off and refuses Novocaine at the dentist, I’m not kidding. I and my family, however, have not been so lucky as to have been unscathed by illness and injury, so I know how quickly things can change. He’ll sign up–I’ll just have to nag him to do it and I hate that.

    910 chars

  23. Crabby said on October 3, 2013 at 1:19 pm

    I don’t know what the increase will be for 2014 yet. It went up $10 from last year to $175/mo (BCBS variant) for my individual retiree policy. I’m retired from a largish multi-national manufacturer. $400 deductible, $30 copay, includes a separate drug plan with fairly good prices. I turn 65 in the middle of next year so there will be some changes then when I get medicare coverage.

    386 chars

  24. Jill said on October 3, 2013 at 1:28 pm

    I feel like our health insurance knew exactly what the health exchanges were going to offer and went to match them…except that we pay more than 500/month on premiums for our family(not including what the company chips in) and we have a 4500 deductible. So, basically, we pay for everything. I don’t even know why we have health insurance really. The thing they missed is that the exchanges have deductibles, but those are only for hospital stays and ER visits. All else have set prices…and the prices are more than 60% cheaper than what we pay now. (BTW: we live in Oregon) We were hoping to sign up under Cover Oregon but found out recently that if our employer offers it we have to take it. When an insurance company only offers deductible plans, hospitals and medical offices need to get the heck in gear and know what their services are going to cost. I can’t just blindly follow my doctor for everything any longer. The days of that happening are long over and they haven’t caught up yet. I think my blood pressure just rose 20 points while writing this.

    1073 chars

  25. Ann said on October 3, 2013 at 1:30 pm

    I’m living and breathing the ACA right now–our agency has three certified in-person counselors who are out on the street (well, one of them is actually at the state mental hospital, lucky kid) signing people up. You have any questions? I probably know the answers!

    At work, Blue Cross actually offered us a 10% reduction if we would renew now instead of waiting for February when our plan year is up. Seems to be largely related to the fact that they can give us a break because I’m on Medicare now, but won’t be able to offer that same break after January 1. We took them up on it.

    590 chars

  26. coozledad said on October 3, 2013 at 1:56 pm

    Harold Meyerson The Permanent Republican Minority H/T Balloon Juice:
    The Republicans who swept to power in 1994 were the first House and Senate delegations that reflected the party’s new center of power in the white South. For the first time in Republican history, most of the party’s top legislative leaders came from former Confederate states, where resistance to minority and worker rights was an established tradition. Even today, this resistance remains key to the GOP’s hold on power; the voter-suppression efforts in Republican-controlled Southern states make this clear.

    599 chars

  27. Sherri said on October 3, 2013 at 2:02 pm

    Open enrollment at my husband’s company isn’t until November, so we don’t have the numbers yet. They did tell us that we are unaffected by the ACA, because our insurance already exceeded the requirements. He works for a company that has traditionally been very generous about health insurance; until 2013, we didn’t have to pay anything, no co-pays, no deductibles, nor a part of the premium. Now we have co-pays and deductibles on some things, but they put money in a HSA to help cover them.

    It’s not a coincidence that the former CEO is now trying to solve global health problems…

    588 chars

  28. Dorothy said on October 3, 2013 at 2:37 pm

    Usually hate to jump in with this kind of message, since most of us are pretty well plugged in. But the US Capitol is on lockdown. A Capitol police officer has been injured is all I have read so far.

    201 chars

  29. brian stouder said on October 3, 2013 at 3:53 pm

    Dorothy, you are the first person I heard THAT news from, so thanks for sharing. Hopefully it is already over, although at this instant the news is quite open-ended and non-specific.

    Where I work, our insurance coverage has always been marvelous, and (as I’ve been told over the years) the increases in the premiums that the company pays over the past 25 years have consistently varied between ‘sharp’ and ‘violently explosive’. At this point the only effect the ACA has had, is to make our slick-haired (Romney-like, really) insurance salesman rant and rave. I really do believe the “hard-core” know-nothing opposition to the ACA comes from the “heads-I-win, tails-you-lose” Romney/sharpie crowd.

    As others have said – the law passes, and this type of capitalist can make impassioned speeches about the loss of “free markets”. Then, if they are so inclined, they can summarily dump healthcare coverage out of their companies, pay the tax/fine (pocketing the difference), and all the while stoke hatred and mistrust of our ‘Kenyan usurper’ big-gov president…..a WIN/WIN/WIN all around, for the striped-suit crowd.

    Anyway, and indeed – the luckiest day of my life was the day (almost 28 years ago) that I got hired into the place where I work.

    Aside from all that, this article made me laugh, about an Iowa state elected official who ruined his grifting career when he got into the weeds with Michelle Bachman

    The money quote (so to speak) from the state senator/grafter:

    “I was never employed by Michele Bachmann. I was never employed by Bachmann for President. I was never employed by the PAC,” he said. “I had a corporation that worked for a corporation that worked for Michele Bachmann.”

    I can just hear the guy adding the phrase – “Corporations are people, my friend; and I don’t know that guy!”

    2040 chars

  30. beb said on October 3, 2013 at 4:28 pm

    Apparently a driver tried to breach a white house traffic barricade, was chased off and arrested after some gunfire near the Capitol building. The driver (a woman) is in custody and a child in the vehicle at the time was removed to a hospital but there no word if the child was injured. It sounds like the lock-down is over.

    324 chars

  31. Charlotte said on October 3, 2013 at 5:14 pm

    For those of us choosing from the ACA plans — via a CPA friend — looks like Bronze might be the best deal? I like the idea of being able to keep my HSA, and apparently the Bronze plans still qualify as high-deductible (and since I don’t qualify for the subsidies the tax break is something I can really use): Bronze May Be the Most Precious Metal Under Obamacare

    395 chars

  32. MichaelG said on October 3, 2013 at 6:58 pm

    I have to say that I am extremely lucky to have the health care coverage that I have as an employee of the State of California. I have Kaiser and have had Kaiser for years and years. I think they are fabulous. Coverage for myself costs nothing and I pay about $100 per month for my EX. We are legally separated, not divorced, and this is one of the reasons. The other is my taxes which would be much higher if I were not married. I let her keep the refunds.

    There is no deductible. I have a $10 copay for visits and the same for scrips. For some follow up visits there is no copay. Copays have doubled from $5 over the last couple of years. As an example, I figured that the total cost to me for the two cataract operations I had a couple of years ago was less than $150 – more like $135. With Kaiser, if something comes up and you feel the need to see a doc, you merely make a phone call. If your regular doc is not available, they will make you an appointment with another doctor. The appointment time will typically be about two hours after the phone call. That’s less than the waiting time in an emergency room. I could go on but I’ll just repeat. Kaiser is fabulous.

    I have coverage for eyes and teeth. Those insurers pay a percentage. I don’t recall the details but I really don’t pay that much for glasses and dentists.

    The State also covers same sex partners.

    Oh, and Brian. I’ve been flying to LAX weekly for the last several weeks and will be doing so through the rest of this month and Nov. Lots of very attractive young women. Just thought I’d make you feel bad.

    1617 chars

  33. Suzanne said on October 3, 2013 at 7:08 pm

    I am fortunate to finally have a job with benefits. The guy that sits next to me at work would have loved to have had something like the ACA for the past couple of years. Until we both landed at the current employer, he was working full-time as a contract employee with no benefits. He said it terrified him, but at $10 per hour, what kind of health insurance could you afford? None.

    And may I mention our Congressman, Marlin S., who made national news again for Indiana by saying: We’re not going to be disrespected. We have to get something out of this. And I don’t know what that even is.

    597 chars

  34. Sherri said on October 3, 2013 at 8:00 pm

    James Fallows passes on a story about the ability (or increasing lack of ability) of the Coast Guard to do search and rescue thanks to the government shutdown:

    But, by all means, it’s important that Congressman Marlin not be disrespected and that people be kept off of health insurance. Live free and die.

    452 chars

  35. Connie said on October 3, 2013 at 8:01 pm

    Until a few years ago my employer paid one 100 % of the premium for family coverage. As increases continues they started splitting the increases with the employees 50/50. Then last year the Michigan legislature passed a law requiring public employees to pay at least 20% of premiums so our share went up.

    We have however just received the second of three lump sum annual payments to assist employees in covering the increase. Mine was around

    I just wrote a long post and disappeared it. Since I am under the influence of Oxycontin due to a probably broken shoulder I think I will wait until later to report. It cost me $25 to see my personal doctor yesterday and will cost me $50 to see the orthopedic surgeon tomorrow. If I have surgery all of it will be covered because I pay for a no deductible 100

    I have now written and somehow erased two posts about health insurance. It must be the oxycontin. I will try again later.


    1100 chars

  36. Connie said on October 3, 2013 at 8:05 pm

    OK, I pay extra for 100 per cent coverage. I hadn’t been in the hospital since my baby and than had a week long hospitalization stay two years ago, and yup 100%. Which was two years ago next week which means my two year anniversary for quitting smoking is also next week.

    274 chars

  37. brian stouder said on October 3, 2013 at 8:33 pm

    Connie – your smoking cessation anniversary is superb news! As with so many other things, I think women are much superior to men when it comes to such things. My mom abruptly stopped smoking decades ago, when some sort of health scare came upon her; and she made it 84 years. But my dad – even after the onset of all sorts of cancer – never managed to cutback much, and was dead before he made it to 53 (I am closing in on reaching the age he had attained at the time of his death…in about 2 months)

    And Michael – LAX is one superb airport. It seemed to me that everyone (especially the women) looked so….well put together, there!

    It sort of had the same cosmopolitan feel as Cary Grant’s train-travel scenes in the movie North by Northwest. Quite bracing (and indeed, there were several Asian youth groups wandering here and there, in matching colors (or tee shirts, etc)…it must have been high season for that

    932 chars

  38. alex said on October 3, 2013 at 10:42 pm

    “O sweet mystery of life, at last I’ve found thee!”

    128 chars

  39. MichaelG said on October 3, 2013 at 10:45 pm

    A lot of people don’t like LAX for a variety of reasons not the least of which is where to park the car when you want to fly off to Granny’s. I fly in, wander out to the curb and catch the rental car shuttle. On return I drop the car at the rental car place and catch the shuttle back to the airport. Easy. In LA all the rental car places are off campus. A tip for anywhere: If you have any distance to drive and you plan to be gone for a week or so it is often cheaper to rent a car at home, drive it to the airport, drop it and catch the shuttle. Do the reverse coming home. It may or may not be cheaper but it is certainly easier than wrestling with parking. Check it out next time you travel. It works here in Sacto because so many international flights originate at SFO and you have to get there somehow.

    819 chars

  40. Jessica Weissman said on October 4, 2013 at 8:59 am

    Our open season was June, for July 1. We went to a new high deductible plan. For individuals: First $1500 is your problem, then they pay 90%. Year out of pocket cap of $2500 including the deductible. Monthly fee is somewhat lower than previous year.

    To make it less awful, we get one of those health care savings accounts, where money goes in pre-tax. Employer puts some in for you. If you are older and have medium to big health care needs, it is a wash with the previous plan – paying for health care with pre-tax dollars is nice. If not, and if you can afford to put money in the savings plan and let it accumulate, you might be okay. If you’re young and very healthy, it’s worse.

    Our Owner makes a point of getting the same health insurance plan as his employees, which puts a brake on the worst stuff. I just hope that he doesn’t screw us in a couple of years when he goes on Medicare and we don’t.

    918 chars