Out of Pocket, Out of Luck

Three Ways You’ll Pay More for Healthcare in 2014

Cheery statistics about healthcare cost trends are nice, but it’s becoming clear that you’ll pay more for healthcare out of pocket in 2014. Employers are continuing to experiment with cost shifting as a strategy to make people more thoughtful about their healthcare choices. Here are three ways your out of pocket costs will mount in 2014.

  1. Shifting premiums to employees. Especially for family coverage, employers say they will be asking employees to pay a larger portion of the premium for the insurance they provide. And even for individual coverage, some employers are asking employees to pay more.
  2. Higher co-pays and deductibles. Two factors are leading employers to impose higher copays and deductibles. One is an indirect effect of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). It’s a move to match the 60% coverage offered under the lowest tier of plans under the ACA — the Bronze Level plans. Some employers who have previously offered higher levels of coverage are taking this opportunity to move down to levels the bronze plans offer. The other factor is a continuation of the growing preference for so-called “consumer-driven” plans. These are high-deductible plans designed to make consumers more price sensitive.
  3. Wellness penalties. Under the ACA, employers are allowed to set wellness goals for employees and impose penalties of as much as 30-50% of the cost of health insurance for people who don’t meet those goals. Although people can ask for a reasonable alternative if an employer’s goals are out of reach, some will likely wind up paying the penalties anyway. It’s a perverse nudge in the wrong direction.

Most of these changes are at best only indirectly connected to the ACA. But through the miracle of politics, the Obama administration will get full credit for anything unpleasant that happens in healthcare for at least the next decade.

Click here to read more in USA Today and here to read more in LifeHealth Pro.

Out of Pocket, Out of Luck. Photograph © Sharon Drummond / flickr

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