Left: Graphic illustrating the continuing erosion of employer-provided health insurance
My wife came home in tears the other day, frustrated by her employer's efforts to pass along rising health care costs to the full-time employees. She received a two percent raise, amounting to approximately $600 per year, while being told that health insurance premiums were rising by 10 percent, meaning that her raise was just wiped out.
Worse still was the fact that her employer also went from a 70-30 share for the costs of the benefits to a 50-50 split, meaning that her monthly cost will jump by nearly $200. Thus, to stay at her current position - which she has worked for nearly eight years - she will actually take a cut in pay of several thousand dollars per year.
As a math teacher in a private school, she is one of those people who truly love their jobs, and there is certainly a quality of life consideration for those who work in such a setting. Still, the prospect of making an additional $10-$20 thousand in salary and receiving better benefits has her searching for a new job in a suburban school district not so scrapped for cash.
My wife, however, has a few choices, considering her advanced education and the demand for math and science teachers across the country. Many Americans find themselves being held hostage by a health care system that is spiralling out of control.
45.8 million Americans do not even have health coverage, which is 15.7% of the population. Many millions of others are forced to work jobs they dislike for fear of losing benefits, while simultaneously being forced to pay higher premium rates, higher deductibles, and an ever-increasing share of the total premium.
Each election cycle we get more empty promises from politicians on both sides of the aisle, yet the problems never seem to get resolved. Perhaps due to the orchestrated attacks against the last serious attempts at reform by Bill and Hillary Clinton (who can forget "they are gonna socialize our health care!!! or "who elected her to fix health care?!?!"), our elected officials seem unwilling to address the failures of the American system of health insurance.
So we continue to suffer with a health care industry that is increasingly beyond the reach of many millions of Americans, while those of us who actually have some substandard, horribly expensive policy look out our windows and thank God we at least have something.
But hey - the free market will fix it all for us, right? All we have to do is click our heels three times and say: "Invisible hand... invisible hand... invisible hand" while bowing to our portrait of Adam Smith.
There! Don't you feel better now?