A study released on Tuesday by the Kaiser Family Foundation, a research group, showed that the average annual premium for family coverage through an employer reached $15,073 in 2011 — 9 percent higher than in the previous year. And even higher premiums could be on the way, particularly in New York, where some companies are asking for double-digit increases for about 1.3 million New Yorkers in individual or small-group plans, setting up a battle with state regulators.
The higher premiums are particularly unwelcome at a time when the economy is sputtering and unemployment is hovering at about 9 percent. Many businesses cite the cost of coverage as a factor in their decision not to hire, and health insurance has become increasingly unaffordable for more Americans. The cost of family coverage has about doubled since 2001, compared with a 34 percent gain in wages.
The cost of coverage has doubled in a decade, yet the US ranks 37th in the world in terms of health. The health insurance industry is failing us badly. During the last three years, many of us have lost jobs, lost our homes, and lost our health insurance. During that same time, the health insurance industry enjoyed record profits.
The top executives at the nation’s five largest for-profit health insurance companies pulled in nearly $200 million in compensation last year — while their businesses prepared to hit ratepayers with double-digit premium increases, according to a new analysis conducted by healthcare activists.
Aetna’s net income jumped more than 40% in the second quarter of 2010 compared with a year earlier. Indianapolis-based WellPoint recorded a 51% increase in its profit in the first quarter compared with the same period in 2009.
At the same time, the companies have sought major premium hikes. In Rhode Island, UnitedHealth of Minnetonka, Minn., this spring sought increases of up to 15.5%. In Utah, some customers of Humana of Louisville, Ky., reported increases of 29%.
These companies are insuring fewer people, offering increasingly restricted coverage each year, making record profits, and paying obscene CEO bonuses, all the while telling us they have to raise our rates. As individual states continue to develop the insurance “exchanges” specified in the health insurance reform bill, affordable, and competitive options may be available for these families.
Remember Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan and his budget plan that would demolish Medicare under the guise of saving it? (Many of the people in his district sure do.) This week, in a speech at Stanford University, Ryan laid out a vision that would go even further—detonating not only Medicare but the rest of our health care system and leaving everyone on their own in a consumer-unfriendly, costly private insurance market. This expanded version of “Ryancare” is what passes for Ryan’s attempt to propose a replacement for the health care reform bill that passed last year.
As David Dayen puts it, “if you liked getting a coupon instead of your Medicare and being pushed out on your own onto the individual marketplace, you’ll love getting the same coupon for Medicaid and for any coverage you get from an employer.”
Let’s compare and contrast what Ryan is proposing with how Medicare actually works and how the Affordable Care Act will work.
As it exists now—and as the overwhelming political consensus says it should exist—Medicare is a guarantee of coverage for all seniors. Meanwhile, under the Affordable Care Act, those at or close to the poverty line are covered by Medicaid, while everyone else can get insurance through their employer or buy policies in a marketplace with subsidies and strict patient protections. What this means is that nearly everyone gets coverage, and their ability to get care is protected.
Ryan’s plan sweeps all of that away, leaving behind a credit to buy a private insurance plan—a credit that rapidly loses value relative to health care costs. The way it saves money is by covering less and pushing more costs and more risk onto individuals. Under “Ryancare,” the many protections that health care reform put into place would be eliminated, giving free rein to the worst abuses of the insurance industry. If your Ryancare credit can’t cover the cost of a policy, you’ll make up the difference, and if you can’t afford a plan that will actually cover the care you need, you’re out of luck.
The hostility of politicians like Ryan to the power of individuals to band together and bargain for a better deal from corporations is long-standing, so it’s no surprise that it shapes their attitudes towards the insurance market. Ryan’s plan is a mixture of ideological wishful thinking and callous disregard for how a health care system should work.
It’s embarrassing what passes for serious policy proposals in Washington.
Next week a great conference kicks off in Washington DC: Take Back the American Dream 2011. Monday through Wednesday, advocates and activists from across the country will come together to talk about what we need to do to empower working people and fight for a stronger, fairer economy.
My co-blogger Doug and I will be there, and you can join us! Go here to learn more about on-site registration, which starts at 8 a.m. on Monday, Oct. 3.
Sponsored by the Campaign for America’s Future and Rebuild the Dream, the conference will bring together innovators and organizers who care deeply about the threats to the American dream from unaccountable corporations, out-of-touch politicians and misinformation in the press. It culminates Wednesday with a rally at the U.S. Capitol to demand immediate action on jobs.
Look for Working America at the conference along with a wide array of organizations and leading lights on the progressive movement. Panelists include our own Executive Director, Karen Nussbaum, and AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka will speak on Tuesday afternoon.
Labor unions, progressive organizations, and hundreds of citizens are taking to Twitter this morning to express their frustration and anger at U.S. House Speaker John Boehner.
In 2010, Boehner consistently asked “where are the jobs?” while leading his caucus to block, obstruct, and delay legislation that would spur the clean energy industry, extend desperately needed unemployment insurance, cut taxes for working families, preserve the jobs of teachers, strengthen workers’ rights, and much, much more.
In 2011, now with the Speaker’s gavel, John Boehner has led his caucus to conduct ideological attacks on Planned Parenthood and NPR, further cut taxes for the super wealthy, obstruct workers’ rights by attacking the NLRB, attempt to shut down the government multiple times, and instigate an immature, embarrassing, manufactured crisis out of raising the debt ceiling.
Despite the talk of “recovery,” companies are still shedding jobs all over the country.
[Merck], with about 12,000 workers in the Philadelphia area, said July 29 that it planned to cut 12 percent to 13 percent of its workforce of about 100,000 by 2015 as it adjusts to market conditions and its 2009 acquisition of Schering Plough.
Twelve to thirteen percent of the workforce at a giant corporation like Merck is a big reduction. Thousands of jobs will be eliminated:
Pharma-industry watchers have suggested that about 5,200 of the total cuts could be U.S. jobs, with from 3,000 to 4,000 in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. A Merck spokesman would not comment on the state-by-state plans. The cuts through October won’t be the end of the process, though.
Even the tech sector isn’t immune. HP is eliminating tablets and PCs – and positions. From zdnet.com:
Following HP’s decision earlier in the summer to wind down the PC and tablet group, and spin or sell off the Palm division, the company has confirmed it will lay off employees, particularly in the webOS section of operations.
Reports suggest that sources close to the company say that HP has plans to lay off over 500 employees, and that the redundancies could begin as early as this week.
Defense companies, many of which receive loads of taxpayer money in the form of government contracts, are still cutting American positions. In Orlando, FL, Northrop Grumman is laying off 200 workers. From the Orlando Sentinel:
For the second time this year, Northrop Grumman Corp. plans to shed at least 200 jobs at its once-expanding laser-weaponry factory in Apopka — a move that will eliminate 24 percent of the remaining work force, the company confirmed Tuesday.
Once the layoffs take effect, Northrop Grumman Laser Systems will have eliminated more than 40 percent of its work force, or 465 jobs, so far this year. The first round of layoffs, in March, were the first job losses in about two decades at the unit, where employment peaked at nearly 1,100 workers early this year. No further cuts are expected, the company said.
Same with the defense giant Lockheed Martin: From Syracuse.com:
Eighty-five Lockheed Martin production workers are being notified of layoffs, a company spokesman said.
The layoffs affect unionized hourly workers as well as non-union salaried employees in the Salina plant. The last day of work for those affected will be Oct. 7 or Oct. 14, he said.
The greatest job losses would be felt by larger sites in Fort Worth, Texas, where about 370 jobs are being cut; Marietta, Georgia and Palmdale, California. Lockheed has cut jobs and held down discretionary spending in response to a flattening of U.S. defense spending.
Middlebury-based Pace American Enterprises Inc. plans to eliminate 106 jobs at its plant in northeastern Indiana as part of company-wide layoffs.
The manufacturer of cargo trailers notified the Indiana Department of Workforce Development about the job cuts in a letter posted Wednesday.
In Chicago, two hundred public school jobs are being cut, and more layoffs could be coming. From the Chicago Tribune:
Chicago Public Schools officials announced Thursday they have trimmed the Chief Education Office and network offices by 200 positions at a cost savings of $16 million, part of a district-wide re-organization plan under CPS’ new leadership team.
Those 200 jobs represent a 25 percent reduction in staff for those departments. The CPS budget approved in August called for $107 million in cuts across all departments. District officials say they have just $44 million of that total left to cut, expected to come through a combination of layoffs, closing vacant jobs, program reductions, streamlining curriculum, and eliminating other duplications. Officials declined to say how many more layoffs are anticipated.
In Wisconsin, where Scott Walker’s boosters are claiming miracles from his anti-union efforts, another 213 jobs lost. From the The Business Journal serving Milwaukee:
Frontier Airlines plans to slash 213 jobs in Milwaukee, according to a mass layoff notice filed Friday afternoon with the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development.
The layoffs effect Frontier workers at General Mitchell International Airport, the airport commissary and the airport maintenance facility, according to the notice.
AnMed Health in Anderson, S.C., is preparing to eliminate 185 positions, which is projected to save $5.2 million in its upcoming fiscal year…
As thousands more American workers lose their jobs, Congress is still dithering, and no action is being taken on the American Jobs Act. The conservatives have been serving up the same solution for over a decade now: cut taxes. It’s time to stop clinging to foolish dreams and bad policies. It’s time to pick up the pace, and jump-start the workforce and our economy.
A roofer, a nurse and a library worker all wanted to know how Working America could help on an issue important to them in a workshop at the Oregon AFLCIO convention this week.
“If you’re a 49 year old tradesman and you break your hip, you’re probably done – you’ll never work again,” the delegate from the Roofers union told us. But workers’ comp in Oregon is rigged against employees –how can we change it? The nurse told of bullying in the hospital industry. There are policies against it but management doesn’t enforce them. And the library worker told of a ballot initiative to create a new library district in Multnomah County. What would it take to win?
The 150,000 Working America members in Oregon frequently weigh in on important issues and we’ve got a long history of working closely with the unions in Oregon. Working America members supported the Worker Freedom Act which expanded workers’ rights in Oregon and an increase in minimum wage for tipped workers. Working America’s members put Jeff Merkley over the top to become a U.S. Senator in a very tight 2008 race. So making their voices heard on workers’ comp reform, employer accountability and public services is right up our alley.
Right after the workshop, we all marched to the post office where postal workers, along with Rep. Peter DeFazio, called out the Congress for creating the postal “crisis.” The postal service is actually in good financial health, if they didn’t have an extraordinary burden recently imposed by Congress to fund pensions far into the future – further than any other public or private entity in the country. “They’ve got to fund pensions for workers who have yet to be born,” joked Arlene Holt-Baker, AFLCIO executive vice president who addressed the 100 or more people at the rally. “They’ll take away Saturday service now, and then they’ll privatize the whole thing, and before you know it postal jobs will be WalMart jobs,” she shouted to the crowd.
In Oregon, Working America really comes together with a strong labor movement. You can see it all in the t-shirts – the labor t-shirts here have both Oregon AFLCIO and Working America printed on the back.
The special interest money is flowing more forcefully into Ohio than the Cuyahoga River. Direct mail is hitting boxes, misleading TV ads blare on every channel; and because of Ohio election laws, it’s just the start.
This is your Ohio Roundup:
• Get Ready: Karl Rove Is Coming to Ohio. Karl Rove has been busy since the disastrous Bush Administration. Because of the Citizens United ruling, Rove’s shadowy organization American Crossroads and its offshoot group Crossroads GPS can raise and spend unlimited funds on political activity. During the 2010 midterm elections, the Crossroads groups helped elect dozens of new anti-worker politicians to Congress.
Now Rove is once again bringing his Bush-era brand of divisive, incendiary politics to the Buckeye State in a big way – he told the Columbus Dispatch that he wants to raise $250 million for his activities, with a focus on Ohio.
Ohioans: If you needed a reason to vote No On Issue 2, just remember that Karl Rove wants you to vote Yes. He was wrong about President George W. Bush, and he’s wrong about Ohio’s future too.
• Cutting Through the Confusion. We’re hearing at the doors a variety of confused responses about Issue 2. Partly this is because No On Issue 2 repeals Senate Bill 5, leading some to refer to “Issue 5.” Remember, to support Ohio workers, vote No on Issue 2.
But that’s not the only confusion Ohio voters are dealing with. A new ad from the “Yes on 2” campaign uses former firefighter and current mayor of Toledo Mike Bell. Kasich and his buddies know that Senate Bill 5 takes away rights from firefighters and endangers their safety, and they know that aspect of the Bill is unpopular, so they are deliberately confusing voters by using a former firefighter as a spokesperson.
Don’t be fooled! If you support firefighters, and you support public safety, vote No On Issue 2. While Mayor Bell used to be a firefighter, and we are grateful for that service, he has now joined the ranks of anti-worker politicians playing the insider’s game. Why else would he side with Governor Kasich to take away rights from his former colleagues?
• Polls Tightening. Unfortunately, the Governor’s misleading tactics are paying dividends. A new Quinnipiac poll shows that 51 percent want to repeal SB 5 (aka No On 2), while 38 want to keep it. In July, the numbers were 56 to 32.
“Support for repealing the bill in the November referendum has dropped from a 24-point to a 13-point margin,” said Quinnipiac’s Peter Brown, “Backers of SB 5 have only six weeks to make up the difference, although public opinion appears to be moving in their direction.”