Rising Health Care Costs Killing Wages for Working Americans

| Mon Mar. 24, 2008 9:30 AM EDT

doctor-with-patient250x200.jpg The Washington Post has been front-paging some great reporting recently on the economic trials of everyday Americans. Here's another example today, about the impact of rising health care costs:

Employees and employers are getting squeezed by the price of health care. The struggle to control health costs is viewed as crucial to improving wages and living standards for working Americans. Employers are paying more for health care and other benefits, leaving less money for pay increases. Benefits now devour 30.2 percent of employers' compensation costs, with the remaining money going to wages, the Labor Department reported this month. That is up from 27.4 percent in 2000.
"The way health-care costs have soared is unbelievable," said Katherine Taylor, a vice president for Local 1199 of the Service Employees International Union. "There are people out here making decisions about whether to keep their lights on or buy a prescription."
Since 2001, premiums for family health coverage have increased 78 percent, according to a 2007 report by the Kaiser Family Foundation. Premiums averaged $12,106, of which workers paid $3,281, according to the report.

That massive jump in premiums is one reason why, according the Post, "inflation-adjusted median family income has dipped 2.6 percent -- or nearly $1,000 annually since 2000."