Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Why you're always broke
Here's some sobering news to help un-swell your head from being named Time Magazine's Person of the Year: Nonprofit family-advocacy group Families USA conducted a state-by-state study showing why you're so broke all the time. It's not that RazrBerriPodCorderTooth you've always got sticking out of the side of your head while driving your Cherokee to the Speedway for SlimJims. And it's not your porn addiction. It's not even the $2.50 gas coming out of the newly democratic Middle East. No, it's health insurance!

The study shows what everyone with a poorly perforated paystub knows: that insurance premiums are rising much faster than earnings. From 2000 to 2006 (what future historians will refer to as "The Rove Years"), premiums rose almost four times faster than earnings. On average, family health care premiums rose by 68.3 percent, while median earnings rose by only 17.6 percent. The average Kentucky family-plan annual premium rose from $7,096 to $11,944, an increase of $4,848.

$11,944! Hellfire, that's enough to treat yourself to an angioplasty and have enough left over for a post-procedure Chili Cheese Bacon 'n' Swiss Thickburger from Hardee's on the way home. And because employers pay an average of about nine grand of that price, the dramatic increase is putting the serious hurt on businesses too.

It doesn't take a rocket surgeon to figure out that health insurance premiums are rising a lot faster than income. It takes a Families USA researcher. Between 2000 and 2006, the median earnings of Kentucky’s workers increased from $21,512 to $25,306. So let's do the math. Let's see, $25 grand minus … carry the one… and what's left over is approximately "Oh, poop."

At least with all this pricey insurance, we can count on excellent coverage when we're sick, right? Well, of course not. The study cites a trend toward "thinner coverage," which is a corporate euphemism for higher deductibles, more co-payments, and much greater cost-sharing on hospitalization and prescription drugs than families paid in the '90s when … ahem … cough, cough… some good ideas about health care reform were bouncing around the White House, only to be squashed by the health-insurance lobby.

In fact, the study showed that more than one quarter of INSURED Americans report problems with medical bills and paying off medical debt. And more than half a million working-age Kentuckians have no health insurance.

The study concludes, "If this trend continues, more and more families will inevitably join the ranks of the uninsured and underinsured, and Kentuckians will face diminishing economic and health security. This crisis will only worsen until there is national leadership in Washington, D.C. that takes decisive and meaningful action to make health care truly affordable and accessible to all." Courageously, there was no closing mention of simian primates flying out of any rectums. The co-pay on getting that fixed is brutal.