This post is a part of our 30 Days of US Healthcare series. You can watch all the videos in this series on YouTube and learn more about the content behind the videos here.
MY BENEFITS ARE GREAT!
Health insurance is often seen as a cherished benefit when provided by employers in the US. However, the reality is that the money for health insurance benefits comes from the same pool as our salaries. Meaning, we get paid less to cover our employer’s share of our health insurance costs. While we may not pay for health insurance coverage from our take-home pay, considering it a “free benefit” is inaccurate.
IS THIS SPLITTING HAIRS?
This distinction may seem trivial, but it has significant implications.
First, we should understand that there is a likelihood that insurance brokers manipulate our employers into selecting insurance plans that offer cash and gifts to the insurance brokers. These expensive kickbacks are gross, and they are driving up the cost of our health insurance.
Second, believing someone else is paying the bill can lead to several issues. We might not review our bills for accuracy or follow up on mistakes. Additionally, we might avoid questioning exorbitant charges. We might also agree to unnecessary tests, procedures, or treatments simply because our benefits cover them.
All of these decisions contribute to increased healthcare costs.
ARE YOU SAYING WE SHOULDN’T USE OUR BENEFITS?
Not at all. We should seek out necessary medical care and use our benefits accordingly. But, we should not assume that our healthcare benefits are free through our employers.
A study by the Kaiser Family Foundation reveals that over the last 20 years, the average premiums we pay for our employer-sponsored family health insurance plans increased by 111%, while our wages only grew by 68%, and inflation increased by 53%.
These data suggest that our employers are passing the increased costs for insurance onto us directly by increasing our premiums. Yes, our salaries increased more than inflation, but not at significant enough rate to make up for the increased cost of our health insurance premiums.
WHAT CAN WE DO?
Although knowing that you are paying for your “free benefits” can be discouraging, it empowers us to make informed choices regarding our healthcare.
- We can advocate for regulation to require insurance brokers to disclose kickbacks.
- Employers can seek out insurance brokers who have been certified to disclose their sources of income (including kickbacks).
- We can diligently review our bills for accuracy and rectify any inaccuracies entered into the billing system.
- Additionally, when possible, engaging in open and honest discussions with our healthcare providers allows us to explore fiscally conservative yet research-supported approaches to our healthcare.
- We can continue to share our health insurance stories on social media, with our legislators, or with trusted journalists to bring light to harmful practices of the US health insurance industry.