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Open Season-er-Open Enrollment November 12, 2009

Posted by Admin in Diary, Health Insurance, Money.
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It’s that time of year again. Open Enrollment. Gone are the days of company meetings, fat glossy brochures and new employee benefits.

Well, I take that back. My employer has added a brokerage option to the 401(k) plan. Which by the way, has no match-but I digress.

Our health care plans have about a 12% increase in them for 2010. I am receiving a 1.5 % raise soon, so that will balance out. In actual dollars, as I am responsible for one person only, my “cost-share” of 15% is still a “good deal”. But as frequent Full Coverage readers can track in the weekly expense posts (search under diary or weekly); my out-of-pocket costs are often 2x/3x higher than the monthly premium.

I just read a column by Ezra Klein who asserts that although productivity per worker is up, all of the wages increases we should have received in the last two or three decades went to health care costs (mostly borne by our employers through action taken in the 1950’s). (Read this post for the 4 accidents that created our current system) He does seem to have a few studies to back him up, so let’s accept the premise for now.

Then he writes about the converse. If health care costs could decrease (that bending the curve thing you might have read about) then it seems there is evidence for the notion that wages might rise again. HR 3962 won’t be bending the curve for at least 3 years though. Sigh.

The traditional fee-for-service model is supposed to begin a transformation under HR 3962. However, due to the recession, I think that our personal productivity will continue to rise in 2010, until each company perceives that it has reached a “tipping point” where they add to staff again. Or not. My current industry may not do that, as their revenues are in sharp decline-in the aggregate.

In September I wrote about how my employer has a section 125 plan for dependent care, transportation costs and medical /dental/vision premiums. But no flexible spending plan where fund can be set aside for over the counter medicines, deductibles and such. I spoke with the correct person and was given the answer that “it had never been part of the discussion”. Maybe next year it will be. With almost no raises, plus furlough days, the company could increase the ways we could reduce our taxes, and to be able to pay the multiple deductibles on a pre-tax basis would be a great addition.

That would be a great way to help me remember the 1980’s and 1990’s when Open Enrollment rolls around again next year.

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