By Julie Appleby, Kaiser Health News
(Image: Kaiser Health News)
Health insurance premiums rose 4 percent for family coverage this year, well below last year’s increase and half the 8 percent average of the previous decade -– largely because people used less health care in an uncertain economy.
Family plan premiums hit $15,745 on average, while premiums for single employees rose to $5,615, according to a survey of employers released Tuesday by the Kaiser Family Foundation and the Health Research & Educational Trust. (KHN is an editorially independent program of the foundation.)
“We’re seeing people make more consumer-oriented decisions, going for less expensive treatments or deferring surgery,” said Julie Stone, senior consultant at Towers Watson, an employer benefit consulting firm that does its own survey. Still, hospitals and other medical providers “are not agreeing” to lower their prices, she said. Continue reading
The federal health law aims to tackle the problem of high health care costs by providing financial rewards to providers who do a better job coordinating patient care. But one shining example of that future has been here in California for decades. It’s Kaiser Permanente which is often touted as the nation’s best hope for bringing health care costs more in line with other developed nations.
Kaiser rose out of a utopian, industrialist dream. During the 1930s and 40s, Henry J. Kaiser wanted to make sure the workers at his Richmond shipyard were steady and strong.
George Halvorson, Kaiser’s CEO, draws a direct link between Henry Kaiser’s approach to building ships and his approach to designing a health system. “When Henry built things he tended to assemble an entire team to build all the parts,” he says. “So when he started providing health care to his workers, he used that model which was to have a Kaiser hospital, Kaiser clinics.”
“They got to where they are, in part, by being the cost leader in the market. And they no longer are.”
Kaiser Permanente opened its doors to the public in 1945 — and offered health coverage that was considerably less expensive than conventional insurers like Blue Cross.
The strategy worked because it owned and operated its own hospitals and clinics and directly employed physicians. Continue reading