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Employees will see higher health care premiums

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Open enrollment season is in full swing for many employees whose companies offer health care benefits, and costs are expected to continue to increase, according to a recent survey.

The average premium is expected to increase by 8.8 percent in 2011 -- the highest spike in five years -- based on an analysis by Hewitt Associates, a global human resources consulting and outsourcing company.

That compares with average increases of 6.9 percent in 2010 and 6 percent in 2009, according to the company. The survey attributed the increase to higher medical claims, an aging population and health care reform.

"Regardless of health care reform, health care costs are going up," said Rob Butler, the president of PayFlex, a Nebraska-based company that partners with employers to administer health and flexible savings accounts. "What's happening is more employers are going to a higher deductible. ... That's the way (employers) are curbing the health care costs."

For employees, the open enrollment period allows them to make changes to their health care policies. The only other time companies generally permit health care changes is during a "life change event," such as a marriage, birth or divorce.

The average amount employees will have to contribute toward their health care premiums is $2,209, or 22.5 percent of the total health care premium, according to the survey. That is an increase of 12.4 percent from 2010.

Susan Kirby said the rising costs aren't surprising to her. Her husband owns Kirby, Fahrion & Associates, Inc., and she said her family receives insurance through the company's group plan.

Deductibles and co-pays have risen steadily, she said, forcing her family, like many others, to think about costs.

"I think we definitely need some reforms," she said, noting a need to rein in costs of medical malpractice suits in particular.

Melissa Baker said she is happy her family now is insured through her husband's employer. The couple is expecting a second child around Christmas. When their 2-year-old daughter was born, they had private insurance, which resulted in thousands of dollars of medical costs, Baker said.

Any increases next year shouldn't dent the family's budget much, she said.

Butler said he is seeing more people put money into health savings accounts, which allow employees to put aside money for health costs before taxes are taken out of their paychecks. The biggest change in that arena is that people no longer can use pretax money to pay for over-the-counter medications.

"What's interesting though, is when you really look at the list of what people can do, it's not too bad," he said. "You can still get diabetic supplies, birth control, etc. What doesn't work are aspirin or Claritin. That is the one change."

He recommended people see whether they have fixed costs such as prescriptions or planned surgeries coming in the next year to determine how much to set aside in a health savings account.

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PWRSPD
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PWRSPD 11/07/10 - 12:15 am
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Actually, demarcus, most

Actually, demarcus, most companies are being advised to drop insurance due to the fact that the fine for not carrying insurance is pennies campared to what it's gonna cost when obamacare kicks in.

k.smith
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k.smith 11/07/10 - 05:54 am
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My premiums have increased by

My premiums have increased by 20%. My co pays have gone up. I can't use my health savings account for over the counter medicines. My doctor will be so bussy that I can't get an appointment. The gas to take the trip to the doctor has gone up. Prescription prices are through the roof but millions are still spent addvertizing viagra. If they keep reforming health care they may as well give us the same choice as the vet does when we take our animals, "do you want to spend the money or but rufus to sleep". I for one worked for a living, and like my health care. But I guess uncle Obama and Anut Nancy new better. I hope this new congress has the will to fix this mess

RoadKing09
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RoadKing09 11/07/10 - 08:51 am
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AMEN !!!!!!!

AMEN !!!!!!!

chascush
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chascush 11/07/10 - 09:12 am
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Come on folks the FREELOADERS

Come on folks the FREELOADERS NEED HEALTH COVERAGE TOO.

Chillen
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Chillen 11/07/10 - 09:57 am
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I have no problem with

I have no problem with healthcare coverage for all - the poor, those with pre-existing health conditions, etc.

However, they should have to bear 100% of the cost - and for some, that will mean higher premiums because of their condition - just like with auto insurance.

Medicaid should go away, the "poor" should pay for their own healthcare. The cost of medicare should be mostly shouldered by those who use it in the form of a monthly premium. The taxpayers can't handle those burdens anymore.

If this healthcare reform can be worked out so that occurs, bring it on.

walkedit
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walkedit 11/07/10 - 05:42 pm
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The best fix is to abolish

The best fix is to abolish insurance. The spiraling costs of health care were started when doctors started to take advantage of the system. Then, the insurance companies decided to pay based on "usual and customary charges." As the UCCs went up, the doctors would increase their charges spreading the amount between the amount charged and the amount they would pay. If the doctors would only charge the amount that the insurance companies allow, we could all afford most medical care without insurance. The doctors may say they wouldn't see patients, but it would truly put them in a more competitive position, and I just bet that they would still see patients. This all would obviously displace a lot of well paid insurance employees and executives. My suggestion to the displacement is to entice manufacturing companies to create jobs. My guess is we lost many of the manufacturing jobs because of costs including insurance driving up their costs. If insurance is abolished it would help the employers.

gaspringwater
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gaspringwater 11/08/10 - 12:29 am
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From a consumer perspective,

From a consumer perspective, the cost of health insurance just keeps going up faster than wages. Since 2005, workers’ contributions to premiums have gone up 47 percent, while overall premiums rose 27 percent, wages increased 18 percent, and inflation rose 12 percent.

The Henry J. Kiser Family Foundation
http://www.kff.org/insurance/090210nr.cfm

corgimom
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corgimom 11/08/10 - 07:58 am
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Chillen, "The cost of

Chillen, "The cost of medicare should be mostly shouldered by those who use it in the form of a monthly premium. "

It is now. But old and sick people are huge consumers of health care, and the monthly premiums would be so astronomical that no one could afford it.

Do you really want old and sick people not to get health care? Should they just drop dead?

cgarlow
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cgarlow 11/09/10 - 12:03 pm
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Actually, people will still

Actually, people will still be able to use their pre-tax FSA dollars to pay for OTC medicines, as long as they receive a doctor's prescription.

For anyone who needs more information, WageWorks, a benefits provider, recently launched a public education effort around FSAs – at www.SaveSmartSpendHealthy.com – which has a contribution calculator, easy to browse list of eligible expenses, and some explanatory videos.

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