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County employees gather at the Crawford County Judicial Complex in English Thursday to listen to options regarding their health insurance coverage. (Photo by Lee Cable)

County employees not immune to increasing insurance costs


December 24, 2008
With an option of two health insurance policies to choose from, many of the approximately 90 employees of Crawford County met with insurance representatives Thursday to hear the policies explained and to try to understand the complicated differences between the two plans.

The employees were told they can stay with their present plan if at least 20 percent of the employees vie to do so, otherwise everyone will be moved to the new, or second, plan offered.

"There is a new plan that you can choose," said Brett Busick, whose company handles the county's insurance plan through Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield. "The new plan will change your deductible, co-pay and prescription card. You can stay with your old plan, but your out-of-pocket costs will go up. If you don't want your out-of-pocket cost to increase, go with the new plan. But 20 percent of the group will have to want to stay with the old plan for it to work. Otherwise, everyone will automatically roll over to the new plan."

Tonia Elliott, a deputy in the Crawford County Auditor's Office, on Friday said well over 20 percent of the employees chose to stay with the old, or present, plan.

With the present plan, the insurance coverage stays the same. Co-pays on doctor visits will be $20. Prescriptions will be $10, $20 and $30, and the deductible will stay at $500 for a single plan and $1,000 for a family plan. The most out-of-pocket an employee will pay stays at $1,000 and $2,000.

With the new plan, doctor visits will stay at $20. Prescriptions will change to $10, $25 and $40, and the deductible will go to $1,500 and $3,000. The most out-of-pocket an employee will pay will go to $3,000 and $6,000.

But there is a significant difference in the amount of money that will be deducted from the employee's paychecks they receive every two weeks to pay their portion of the insurance.

With the present plan, an employee will pay $53.42 each pay period for a single plan. For an employee and child, the cost will be $90.68. For an employee and spouse, there will be $118.08 deducted each pay period, and for a family plan, the cost will be $153.90.

With the new plan, the premiums remain the same as they have been. A single employee plan will cost an employee $28.25 each pay period, while an employee and child will be $48.15. For an employee and spouse, the cost will be $62.70 per pay period, and for a family plan, the cost will be $76.12.

The difference in the two plans is $25.17 more for the old single plan, $42.53 more for an employee and child, $55.38 for an employee and spouse and $77.78 more for a family plan with the old policy.

According to Medical News Today, insurance premiums have risen by 73.8 percent since 2001 while the U.S. median income has increased only 11.6 percent. Nationally, insurance premiums have increased about 6.4 times faster than median earnings, and more than twice the rate of inflation.

Total spending on health care was $2.3 trillion in 2007, or $7,600 per person. Total health care spending represented 16 percent of the gross domestic product. According to the National Coalition on Health Care, U.S. health care spending is expected to increase at similar levels for the next decade, reaching $4.2 trillion by 2016, or 20 percent of the gross domestic product.

In 2007, employer health insurance premiums increased by 6.1 percent. The annual premium for an employer health plan covering a family of four averaged nearly $12,100. The annual premium for single coverage averaged more than $4,400. Health care spending is now 4.3 times the amount spent on national defense. Although nearly 47 million Americans are uninsured, the United States spends more on health care than other industrialized nations, and those countries provide health insurance to all their citizens.

Also, according to NCHC, many experts agree that the nation's health care system is riddled with inefficiencies, excessive administrative expenses, inflated prices, poor management, inappropriate care, waste and fraud. These problems significantly increase the cost of medical care and health insurance for employers and workers and affect the security of families.

Workers are now paying $1,400 more in premiums annually for family coverage than they did in 2000, and employment-based health insurance premiums have increased 100 percent, causing health insurance expenses to be the fastest growing cost component for employers.

In a Wall Street/NBC survey, it was found that almost 50 percent of the American public believe the cost of health care is their number one economic concern.

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