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Health care options

| Thursday, June 26, 2008

Most workers and employers are struggling with rising health care costs.

So it was no surprise to see that our towns are experiencing health care sticker shock for 2008. The average costs are up about 15 percent for employers with fewer than 50 workers.

Here are just three examples:

• Lower Burrell will see a 10 percent increase in insurance costs this year for its 42 covered full-time employees. It will cost $687,000 this year, up from $626,000 last year. That's an average $16,000 cost per worker.

• In Tarentum, costs are up 16 percent. The borough's insurance will be $231,000 this year for 30 workers, up $32,000 from last year. That's about $7,500 for each worker's health care.

• In Plum, costs are up by 5 percent. That means taxpayers will pay $50,000 more, or $973,000, up from $923,000 in 2007, for 65 workers. That averages out to about $15,000 per worker.

The Kaiser Family Foundation reported that its annual survey in 2007 found that employers' premiums for family coverage averaged $12,000, with employees picking up $3,300 of that, or about 25 percent.

Contributions to health care costs by public employees often lag those by private sector employees.

In the private sector, co-pays of $25 for doctor visits, brand name prescriptions or physical therapy are common -- as are deductibles of $500 or $1,000 per family before tests or procedures are covered.

And the latest health care trend for employers is to offer high deductible plans, of $3,000 or more, to hold down costs.

We encourage municipalities to look at some of these options. It's a way to hold down costs for taxpayers, many of whom are paying much more out of their own pocket for health care.

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