Underplayed Story of the Day: Health Care Sticker Shock

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Okay, call it more of the same. But this story by David Hilzenrath (page A4 of the Washington Post) is an important reminder that it’s ugly out there, even for those of us lucky enough to have the very best coverage:

Most big employers plan to shift a larger share of health-care costs to their workers next year, according to a survey released Thursday.

Many say they may charge more to cover spouses, tighten eligibility standards for their health plans and dispense financial rewards or penalties based on the results of certain lab tests. At some companies, overweight employees could be excluded from the most desirable plans.

Meanwhile, employees at many companies can expect significantly higher premiums, deductibles and co-payments, according to the annual survey by the National Business Group on Health, a coalition of big employers, and Towers Watson, a consulting firm that advises companies on employee benefits.

“This shows that the constant, unrelenting increases in health-care costs are going to cost employees and their families more and more,” said Helen Darling, president of the business group. Faced with rapidly rising medical expenses, “employers are going to have to do something,” she said.

People who work for large corporations have some of the most stable and comprehensive medical coverage in the nation. They are insulated from insurance industry practices at the heart of the Washington health-care debate, such as having their policies rescinded after getting sick or being denied coverage based on preexisting conditions. However, the new survey is a reminder that even people who are satisfied with their insurance plans cannot count on a continuation of the status quo.