Potpourri: Health Insurance Costs – A Cancer on Your Business?: Business
As a business person, what keeps you awake at night? Not enough business, too much business, should you expand, should you contract, should you hire, should you fire, should you risk, should you hold tight, should you buy, should you sell, and – most of all, will you succeed or fail? No surprises. They come with responsibility.
When I started my firm I logged – and still log – many nighttime hours stewing. Yet, there is one major concern now that I didn’t have then, and frankly didn’t expect. You have it too. We all do. It’s the skyrocketing cost of health care insurance. Where the heck is this heading, will it end, and what havoc will it wreak in the meantime?
We’re all in this together, but let me lay out my personal situation. I have a crisis PR consultancy with subcontractors and alliances as necessary, but basically it consists of my wife and me. We are in our late fifties. Even though the business has done well, since 1994 we have watched our monthly healthcare insurance premiums climb from $311 to more than $1700. At this pace, those premiums will eventually eclipse all other expenses including mortgages and loans. I have asthma, Linda arthritis, and we have a number of prescriptions, but we’ve so far avoided the big illnesses – cancer, heart problems and the like, thank goodness. Nevertheless, our monthly premiums will be several thousand dollars in just a few years. Add that to the other expenses and you’ve got serious overhead.
We like our doctors and quality of health care, and the insurance companies have been a pleasure to deal with and are reasonable. However, these exploding premiums are a malignancy eating at ours and every other business in America today. About half of small businesses don’t even offer health care coverage any more, and big businesses are passing along ever greater costs. That escalating price tag motivated picketing employees of General Electric earlier this year. Workers would rather take a pay hit than eat the climbing healthcare premiums. What should the company do? What should employees do?
With typical business anxieties you comfort yourself by digging in to work harder, learn more, serve customers better, become a better leader, and – if you are patient – you hope to acquire the skills and resources to triumph. But how do you comfort yourself about double-digit health care cost increases every year with no end in sight? You either make more money or cut spending because dumping the coverage itself risks catastrophe.
So what’s the solution? We can round up all the usual health care industry suspects, but I think each of us in our heart of hearts knows this problem rests partly with ourselves. Furthermore, whatever sins of the health care industry, I think each of us probably acknowledges that the industry gives us health care consumers what we demand. They’re in business too and profit by satisfying the customer – us.
Okay, now what? Should we lower our expectations for healthcare? Do we take fewer medicines? Go to the doctor less often? Avoid voluntary surgeries? Stop suing? Tell the physician “never mind that x-ray,” “skip that scan,” or “I think I’ll pass on the PSA test or mammography this time?”
It seems like a “we have met the enemy and he is us” kind of thing, doesn’t it? Well, if so, we have given our businesses this cancer of skyrocketing healthcare premiums.
The question now is, how do we heal ourselves, and who is going to teach us?