Let’s talk about a very important chart.
It came out earlier this week as part of the Kaiser Family Foundation’s annual look at employer-sponsored health insurance. And I think it does a lot to explain why Americans are frustrated with our health care system — and why they’re becoming more open to the idea of moving to single-payer.
This chart shows that, over the past decade, the size our insurance deductibles have skyrocketed. Deductibles have grown by 212 percent since 2008 — eight times faster than wage growth, and 12 times faster than inflation.
Here’s that data put another way, which looks at the actual dollar size of American deductibles.
Just a decade ago, the average American with employer-sponsored coverage had a deductible of $303. Flash forward just one decade, and that number now sits at $1,350.
What this means is that Americans who do need medical care are being asked to spend significantly more to get it. There is a growing number of Americans who have to spend more than $1,000 on medical bills before their health insurance coverage kicks in.
These are the people I often hear from in my project on emergency room billing, which has collected hundreds of bills from across the country. In the past, these people probably wouldn’t have been as angry about their medical bills. If they had a low deductible, the actual price of care wouldn’t matter. The health insurance would kick in immediately, likely leaving the patient with a reasonable copayment
But that isn’t the case anymore. As deductibles rise, patients are increasingly finding themselves on the hook for the actual price of medical care. This includes patients like Bradley Sroka, who I wrote about earlier this year after his daughter’s short visit to the emergency room where she received antibiotic ointment left the family with a $937 bill. The family was on the hook for the entire bill because they were still within their insurance plan’s deductible.
These charts showing a rise in deductibles, I think, have a lot to do with this other chart: one showing a slow, steady rise in American support for a single-payer style health care system.
Over the same time period that we’ve seen deductibles skyrocketing, we’ve also seen support for a national health care plan slowly rising. To me, that doesn’t seem to be a coincidence: When Americans are confronted with actual health care prices — and when they find those prices to be unaffordable — it makes sense that more would begin to support a massive change to the system.
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