The Price of Inaction

“[T]he new survey is a reminder that even people who are satisfied with their insurance plans cannot count on a continuation of the status quo.”  
– Washington Post, 3/15/2010
Recent research and surveys of experts support what President Obama and Democrats have repeatedly stated throughout the debate on health insurance reform: America’s health care costs are not sustainable. A recent analysis from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation shows that without health insurance reform, health care costs would cripple America’s businesses and families:
• FAMILIES’ HEALTH CARE COSTS: Individual and family spending on premiums and out-of-pocket health care costs would increase from $315 billion in 2010 to $564 billion in 2020.
• MIDDLE- AND HIGH-INCOME: The share of the uninsured from middle- and higher-income families would rise from 44% to 56% in 2020, with middle class families being hit the hardest.
• PREMIUMS: Both single and family policies would more than double by 2020, increasing from $4,800 to $10,300 for single policies and from $12,100 to $25,600 for family policies.
• SMALL BUSINESSES: Small business workers would see offers of health insurance almost cut in half, dropping from 41% to 23% in 2020. Overall, the rate of employer sponsored insurance coverage would fall from 56% in 2010 to 48% of nonelderly Americans in 2020.
• INSURANCE FOR CHILDREN: Enrollment in Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) would increase from 45.4 million in 2010 to 58.2 million in 2020, an increase of 12.8 million nonelderly Americans. Medicaid and CHIP spending for the nonelderly would increase from $278 billion in 2010 to $576 billion in 2020, an increase of 108%.
• PREMIUM COSTS: Employer premium spending would increase from $430 billion in 2010 to $851 billion in 2020, a 98% increase.
• UNCOMPENSATED CARE COSTS: Would increase from $64 billion in 2010 to $140 billion in 2020. Together with increased spending on Medicaid and CHIP, this would mean higher federal, state, and local taxes even without reform.  Americans already pay a “hidden tax” of $1100 added onto the average family premium to pay for uncompensated care every year.
• UNINSURED: The number of uninsured Americans would increase from 49.4 million in 2010 to 59.7 million in 2015 and 67.6 million in 2020.
Another related survey by the National Business Group on Health/Towers Watson shows that beginning next year, employers will continue to shift an even larger share of health care costs to their workers:
• 56% of employers plan to hold employees responsible for a larger share of the costs next year
• 28% of employers plan to use spousal surcharges next year, up from 21% this year
• 12% of employers plan to offer only high-deductible coverage next year, which carry lower premiums but leave workers responsible for higher out-of-pocket expenses
• 6% to 7% of employers are considering declaring that only employees who meet specified targets for blood pressure, weight and cholesterol can enroll in “preferred” health-care plans, up from 1% today
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