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As costs soar, more people take health risks

Health insurance premiums are going up -- 9% on average -- and you're getting less for your money. Many folks are cutting back on care in potentially dangerous ways.

By Karen Datko Sep 28, 2011 5:55PM

A major new study shows a startling spike in the cost of work-based health insurance plans. Meanwhile, a new survey says more people are cutting back on care in ways that might jeopardize their health.


The particulars:


Premiums for workplace plans rose 8% for individuals and 9% for family plans this year, according to the new study by the Kaiser Family Foundation. On average, it's $5,429 for individuals and $15,073 for families -- about the cost of a Ford Fiesta, points out. Last year's increase was 3%. Post continues after video.

Individuals on average pay $921 of the annual premium and families pay $4,129 -- about the same as last year -- and the employer picks up the rest. However, here's a look at the bigger picture: Premiums for family plans have jumped 113% since 2001, and the employee portion in that time has risen 131% -- much, much higher than inflation and wage increases. Many expect employers in 2012 to increase the employees' share of costs.


Workers are already paying more out-of-pocket for higher co-payments, co-insurance and deductibles. The Washington Post reports:

In 2011, for the first time, half of workers at small firms with individual policies faced annual deductibles of $1,000 or more. In 2006, that figure was 16 percent. At large firms, the share has grown from 6 percent to 22 percent over the same five years.

See the connection here? As the cost of insurance climbs, employers are picking plans that force higher costs on workers (particularly those who actually use health care). Drew Altman, president of the Kaiser Family Foundation, calls it a "quiet revolution" in health insurance.


To hold down costs, those with and without insurance are cutting back on care. A whopping 48% of Americans who take prescription medication -- up nine percentage points from last year -- are "skimping on medication and other forms of health care," according to a new survey by Consumer Reports.


Of that group:

  • 28% said they took steps to save on their medication like going without, taking expired medication, or splitting or skipping doses.
  • 21% have put off a doctor's visit.
  • 17% delayed a procedure.
  • 14% declined a test.

About half of all Americans have work-based health insurance. The rest either buy it themselves or are among the 49.9 million Americans who are uninsured. What can they do to contain costs?

  • If you have insurance, consider switching to a high-deductible plan that comes with a health savings account (allowing you to save pretax money for health care costs)  or a health reimbursement arrangement (where your employer sets aside money for your costs). They make sense for some people. 
  • Take advantage of every opportunity your employer provides to cut your costs, like doing a health assessment or quitting smoking.
  • Tell your doctor to prescribe the generic versions of brand-name drugs. Don't wait for your physician to bring this up; many won't. Unfortunately, Consumer Reports found lots of misconceptions about generics. It clarified:
In fact, generic drugs are made with the exact same active ingredient as their brand-name equivalents and are regulated in the same manner. And manufacturers must prove that the active ingredient enters and leaves the bloodstream as fast or as slowly as brand-name versions, which means the therapeutic effect should be the same.
  • Do price comparisons among pharmacies, hospitals and other care providers. Ask your usual provider to match the lowest price you find.

There is a bit of good news. Americans are taking advantage of a provision of health care reform (the bulk of which won't take effect until 2014) that allows insured people to keep their kids on their policy until age 26 in many cases.


Also, under health care reform, many preventive procedures -- mammograms, colonoscopies, etc. -- must be made available through your insurance plan at no out-of-pocket cost to you, unless your plan is grandfathered in. (Only one or two percentage points of the nearly double-digit premium increases can be attributed to those two changes, Kaiser says.)


Have your health insurance options at work changed for 2012? Will you be paying more out-of-pocket?


More on MSN Money:

Sep 29, 2011 3:20PM
avatar, college tuition, car insurance, 401K...all smell about the same...kick backs for all...thank you Mr. Greenspan, Dodd, Frank, Wall Street, Headge Mgrs, SEC, Mortgage and Realestate Brokers...almost forgot, Congress, Lobbiest and CEOs...
Sep 29, 2011 2:46PM

Suztrek I believe you! You know why Universal health care will never pass in the US? Because the politicians on both sides takes a bribe from health companies ex. $300 000 under the table for a politician to vote on their behalf!  I believe this is legal because none of them went to jail!  Politicians are owned by companies. In Canada a politician would loose is job for having a free breakfast with a company. Don't get me wrong I have many American friends and they are good people but they are afraid to change this behavior in Government or are not able to. What is worse is some Americans will hate me for telling the truth because they think I’m attacking their way of life, but what I just want is for my American friends not to loose their homes if and when they loose or can’t afford their health insurance.


For the millionaires well you can afford it! what ever happens and you can give me a speech for trying to help the middle class and the poor.

Sep 29, 2011 12:59PM

RayVick, I  don't think Americans know any better about Universal health care, they have been fed so much crap about 'socialist medicine' that it is not accepable to even consider.  Australia has one of the best health care programs for its people.  Everyone pays in and everyone is covered, you have an option for private coverage and yes it's FREEEEE to those low earners. You don't lose everything if you have cancer or major injuries. There are no stories about little kids or old people not getting proper care. There are no stoies about losing your life savings for cancer treament or getting denied because your insurance company does not cover whatever!  I can't believe the attitude that Americans have about Health care it's just beyond description! 

Sep 29, 2011 10:47AM

You should remove health care insurance to all Replublican in your Government and when they see that they have to pay $60 000 for a heart attack they might think differently!


To all people that believe in paying for healthcare well you are just crazy and don't know anything else.


All other Countries it's FREEEEEEE! If you have cancer FREE, eye surgery FREE you are sick FREE.


To all the crazy people! one day you might loose your healthinsurance for some reason, and you will have to mortgage your house 3 times to pay the bill.  GOOD LUCK!

Sep 29, 2011 8:04AM

GoodSmile,I'm glad to hear insurance premiums are going up and the average American idiot gets a better screw job!............Americans have been ignorant far too long on far too many topics,It's sad to say but they're just getting what they deserve! I guess that just because we're all fat,that doesn't mean are wallets areCrying 


Sep 28, 2011 7:49PM
that is bull. how in the world are they going up but they offer nothing in return? I'm single make a decent living and refuse to pay 200 every two weeks for health care. cant afford it. I choose to live on a budget and put whatever i make extra from work in the bank. I really miss the good old days with I had full coverage and my out of pocket was 40 dollars every two weeks. I just go to the free clinic here that go by your income for a yearly check up. and pay the remaining balance.
Sep 28, 2011 7:35PM
that's why we need a public option
Sep 28, 2011 7:28PM
Krazy : you are right start making these freeloaders start paying their own ins , and get rid of all benefits, let them do the job not just because it's a great penison (do away with the penison ).
Sep 28, 2011 6:53PM
as long as congress keeps get free premium health care at tax payer expense and political donations, nothing will ever be done about rising costs.
Sep 28, 2011 6:29PM
Seems like the private sector is doing a great job of keeping costs down. Hooray for the free market. Glad I'm not in one of those socialist countries.
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