I was stunned last week to learn that the health insurance premium my company pays for my wife and me (we're in our 60s) is $1,827 per month. What am I getting for $22,000 per year? Not even a death panel. It's a $2,200 deductible plan with a stop-loss of $4,400 for the two of us combined. This is through Blue Shield, which is still operated as a nonprofit.
Like most of the 85 percent of the population who are supposedly "happy with their insurance," I was blissfully ignorant of what it was actually costing. They paid the bill for me over in accounting, but the current focus on health insurance prompted me to ask what my own portion was costing. I'm the owner of a company with about 30 employees, so I bear the entire burden for my own coverage.
If I were to lose my job, my COBRA cost to continue the coverage would be 35 percent of the $1,827 until November, and then the end of the temporary government subsidy would raise my cost to the full annualized rate of $22,000 - a laughable amount for someone unemployed.
Then, there are those huge deductibles if I actually got sick - plus the cost of drugs not covered and disputes over bills that may be more than "usual and customary."
Moreover, some treatments I thought I needed would have to be pre-approved by someone in a cubicle while I struggle with their voice mail.
Looking at my bill, I notice that I'm paying less for younger employees.
However, it would be about $1,000 for a couple in their 50's and $600 for a couple in their 40's, so it's never cheap by any stretch. The only good news is that it is all tax-deductible, as long as I'm employed, but COBRA premiums, if I ever had to pay while between jobs, would not be tax-deductible. How twisted is that?
All of us who are "happy with our current coverage" have probably not stopped to think about the fact that we change jobs on average about once every seven years - which means that we're probably candidates for COBRA coverage or we go uninsured for significant portions of a career.
Even those steadily employed are paying indirectly, because companies like mine that have to pay these premiums have less money available for spendable employee compensation.
Because an employer is paying the bill doesn't mean it costs employees nothing. We're paying every dime with hidden compensation we never see.
Meanwhile, of the $22,000 a year I currently pay, about $7,000 or 35 percent goes to cover the cost of administration, marketing, profits and costs not directly related to health care itself.
Of the amount that actually gets to doctors and hospitals, about a third represents a mark-up to cover the costs of those who can't pay.
Doing simple math, it appears that only $10,000 of my $22,000 is devoted to actually paying for my potential health problems.
It will get worse. The Center for Disease Control estimates that one out of three children born since 2000 will have type-2 diabetes - basically from a diet of government-subsidized junk food.
Ninety-two gallons of soft drink per year on average now exceeds the amount of milk that kids drink.
In most industrialized countries, I'd be paying just $11,000 a year for comparable coverage. Let's give change a chance.