Another double digit premium increase from Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts

Just returned from an eye exam with my pupils dilated wide enough that I can’t read. Luckily, I’m able to crank the font size way up on my computer monitor so that I can see well enough to write this. When I left the eye doctor I commented to the receptionist that my $25 co-pay was kind of a lot, but that next time I saw her it would probably be up to $50. She said she saw quite a few at $50 and the highest she’d personally dealt with was $60.

Once I got back to my office I found the dreaded annual renewal letter from Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts for my small business. I recognized the envelope but had to have someone else read it to me. The current premium for fairly dumbed down family HMO coverage is right around $18,000 per year (more than a minimum wage worker would gross if they worked full time). Next year’s rate is just above $20,000, an increase of almost 12 percent.

I’ve been dealing with percentage increases of about this magnitude every year for the 10 years since I started my business. (Of course, with the compounding effect what used to be a $1000 increase has turned into $2000.) Massachusetts and Federal health care reform haven’t slowed down the rate of increase, but it doesn’t appear to have increased it either.

These increases have to stop sometime, but it’s still not clear when and how it will occur. They say revolutions usually occur when there’s discontent among the middle classes. At $20,000 per year you’d think the revolution would already have occurred (never mind the co-pays, deductibles, coinsurance and coverage limitations) and yet there’s been relatively little foment. That’s probably because most middle class folks get their coverage through their employer and don’t feel the sting the way I do, even though rising insurance costs absolutely contribute to wage stagnation.

Once health care costs come under control maybe we can turn to the cost of higher education…

July 14, 2011

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