Healthcare costs are old news, so where’s the answers?
Insurance, whether it’s liability, health, or workers’ compensation, is a must have for any business. After you pay your taxes, you pay the insurance premiums ahead of anything else.Over the past five years, the cost of most insurances has risen a manageable amount, the premiums rising to keep up with inflation and new risks. There is one exception, however – health insurance. The cost of providing health insurance to the owners, managers, and employees of local businesses has risen by double digits for each of the last five years. Moreover, as the value of a ski pass as a benefit has declined from about a $1000 to $250, businesses have been forced to offer health insurance not as a benefit for a few, but to offer it to almost all employees from the day they start work in order to attract and retain good employees.In Summit County, one of the most galling aspects of the surge in the cost of health insurance is that it’s group coverage, galling because most folk who work here live a healthy lifestyle, the number of knee injuries and ACL surgeries notwithstanding.
But by and large for the purposes of group health, this underlying community ethos of health and good exercise counts for nothing. We all might as well go to fat, stay indoors and watch first round coverage of the week’s PGA Tour stop or, for God’s sake, watch strangers play poker. Every idiot and their brother, regardless of whether they take care of themselves or not, gets coverage with only a minor variation in the cost relative to the premiums of healthy folk who try and stay healthy.Group allows everyone to be included regardless of their general health or preexisting medical condition. Why do we accept that? My auto premiums are based on the safety of my Subaru and my clean driving record, clean mostly because I’ve not been caught. I’d be outraged and you would be, too, if your car insurance was “group,” lumping you the safe driver in with the clown with a dozen DUIs and speeding tickets. My renters’ insurance is based on my location, the contents of my home, and its security. I don’t pay “group” insurance, lumping me in with folks who live in Five Points in Denver.But as the cost of health insurance has ballooned, and with the advent of group coverage that leaves the business owner with little to do to manage cost of health insurance premiums, a key question is not how did health insurance get so expensive. The question is why there are no advocates in the county, or in the legislature, who are taking steps to get the cost under control.
Over the years, my business partners and I have been members of one or the other or both of the Summit Chamber of Commerce and the Breckenridge Resort Chamber. In recent years, we’ve been members of neither, not because they’re bad organizations, or that our commitment to community has changed. Our priorities have changed. The advent of the internet has made the marketing opportunities offered by them less attractive, and while “networking” over a beer with folks you already know is fun, it’s not worth thousands of dollars in membership dues.For me, I’m prepared to join organizations that are mad about the cost of health insurance, not because I can place an ad in a fulfillment piece. Imagine if the cost of energy had risen by double digits every year for the past five? OK, bad example, but what if landlords had been able to raise rents by those amounts? You’d be upset and you’d expect some action by someone somewhere to bring the situation under control.
The word “group” in the context of health insurance has had a powerful, costly impact on doing business in Summit County. I think it’s time for businesses in the county to say “enough’s enough” and group together to insist that action be taken. Can’t chambers of commerce be advocates for business as well as information centers and vacation planners? It’s an election year – shouldn’t we expect candidates for town council, the state legislature, indeed, the state house to outline what they’ll do, and for incumbents to explain why they haven’t done anything about the cost of health care?Or am I the only one who thinks the situation is … unhealthy?Marc Carlisle writes a Thursday column. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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