Sometimes Reports Reach Obvious Conclusions, New Report Concludes

I’m continually amazed at the time and effort that people put into proving the obvious.  You know what I’m typing about.  “Fast food linked to obesity, study says.”  “Talking on cell phone while driving and applying make-up can pose risks, experts say.”  And my favorite: “Survey: incarceration up despite falling crime.”  Unsurprisingly, Google tells me that someone out there has dedicated a blog to “stupid studies.”

The latest entry (which is not dumb or stupid so much as it ought to be unnecessary) arrives this morning on the front page of the Boston Globe:  “City, town heath plans most costly, report says.”   

Health insurance plans to cover city and town employees cost 37 percent  more than similar plans for workers at private companies, mostly because  municipal employees pay minimal copayments or deductibles when they get  care, according to a new statewide survey.

The 20-page report from the Boston Foundation and Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation concludes that cities and towns must substantially increase the amounts their employees are required to pay in out-of-pocket expenses for medical office visits and other services and to significantly increase their deductibles. Otherwise, municipalities will see insurance eat up an ever-increasing share of their budget.

So far, so duh.  Anyone who pays even the slightest attention to government finances (which, admittedly, is a small percentage of the population) has been well aware of this survey’s conclusion for several years now.  With very rare exception, municipal health plans are not sustainable.  Period.  Each and every year the cost of these benefits consume a greater proportion of city and town budgets.  This survey found health benefits currently consuming an average of 14 percent of the annual budget, and climbing steadily.  With the myriad and also increasing demands placed on local budgets by declining state aid, the tipping point will come long before that percentage approaches 100, or even 50.

Need more numbers?  Here’s the meat of the Globe’s summary:

Currently, the average annual family health insurance premium in municipalities is 21 percent higher than the state plan, 33 percent higher than the federal government employee plan, and 37 percent higher than in the average private sector, the report says. The cost of these premiums is paid jointly by employers and employees. However, in many municipalities, the government pays 60 to 85 percent of the premium.

The report, which focused on 14 municipalities, found that city and town workers typically pay only $11 to see their primary care physician, half the amount typically paid by workers in the state, federal, and private sectors.

The report also found that nine of the 14 municipalities studied charge no copayment for most other medical services, including high-tech imaging such as an MRIs, outpatient surgery, and inpatient hospitalization, the three largest drivers of medical cost increases, the report says.

By contrast, private workers pay $75 for high-tech imaging, $150 for outpatient surgery, and $250 for inpatient hospitalization, the report found.

In addition, the report found that municipal workers paid no up-front share of their health costs each year, called a deductible.

“Amazingly, no municipal plan includes a deductible,” the report says. “In the other public and private plans, members are responsible for minimum deductibles of $250 for individuals and $700 for families.”

So what needs to change?  Crack open another can of duh: Union influence on benefits must be drastically curtailed… READ THE REST at CriticalMASS

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