Gary VanderArk and Gretchen Hammer, president and executive director of the Colorado Coalition for the Medically Underserved, have written an opinion piece for the Denver Post about how health care reform will benefit the people of Colorado. I agree with their analysis – there will be a lot positive changes once health care reform takes effect, especially for low-income Coloradans and those who are currently uninsured.
But I felt that one of their points needed to be addressed because it could be a little misleading. They note that 40% of Colorado residents have an income of less than $43,000 for a family of four, and that these families simply cannot afford health insurance, as the price of coverage for a family of four is “approaching $15,000”. The authors note that families simply cannot afford to pay more than a third of their income for health insurance (I agree). But that $15,000 figure is based on the cost of guaranteed-issue group health insurance. Individual and family policies that are purchased without going through an employer are much less expensive. And even when a family has group health insurance, the employer usually pays at least part of the premiums – it is rare to find a family that is actually paying $15,000 a year for their health insurance. (People on COBRA are paying the entire cost of their group health insurance premiums, but they make up a small segment of the population).
My concern when I see articles noting that the cost of family health insurance is in the $13,000 – $15,000 range is that people might be so discouraged by those figures that they simply give up and opt to be uninsured without looking at what their options really are. My husband and son and I will pay just over $4000 this year for our health insurance (we’re self-employed, so we pay the full cost of our health insurance ourselves). True, we have a high deductible, HSA qualified policy that wouldn’t work for everyone. But it’s perfect for us, and the premium is a fraction of the figure that often gets tossed around when people talk about family health insurance premiums. If we opted for a more comprehensive policy with office visit copays and a lower deductible, we would still be paying roughly $7000 or so in annual premiums.
For families that are relatively healthy, there are lots of options for health insurance that they can purchase on their own. The premium will likely be quite a bit less than the numbers that get mentioned in most articles that discuss the cost of health insurance. I hope that people don’t see those numbers, assume that they can’t afford coverage, and give up without looking at all of their options. We’re still three years away from most of the benefits of health care reform, and that’s a long time to be uninsured.