Thursday, October 09, 2008

Health care: Get ready for more out-of-pocket fees

(Updated post.) Any moment now, you'll be getting that dreaded big envelope from Gannett, telling you how much more medical benefits will cost next year compared to 2008, as late fall is traditionally annual open-enrollment season. Health-care premiums are expected to rise 7.8% for 2008, according to a recent projection by Hewitt Associates, cited in today's Wall Street Journal. That would come after double-digit percentage increases in previous years.

But employees' charges for such items as deductibles, co-pays and other out-of-pocket expenses are forecast to jump 10.1% from this year, to about $1,900, the WSJ story (paid subscription generally required) says. No matter what Gannett's increases are this year, they'll nip at pay increases for many employees, given raises stuck in the 1% to 2% range.

On a percentage basis, how much more do you expect your total medical expenses -- premiums plus out-of-pocket fees -- to increase next year compared to this year? Please post your replies in the comments section, below. To e-mail confidentially, write gannettblog[at]gmail[dot-com]; see Tipsters Anonymous Policy in the green sidebar, upper right.


  1. I am getting off of "gannett" medical........yipeeee!!! I can't wait to get away from the thieves that take my higher co-pays and premiums and take back any money then you get for their measley raises! Bon voyage medical plan!

  2. I am on my spouses medical plan from her employer. For the both of us it's $150/month for similar coverage to Gannetts.

  3. I am on my wifes plan, Tricare, and have been since she was active duty. Gannett used to pay us for having insurance elsewhere, about $700-800 a year for a family, but that figure got lower and lower until one day it was no more. One would think that we should still be paid for having another plan, since Gannett saves quite a bit of money, but in this day and age I am not holding my breath.
    As comparison, our plan (2 adults) cost us $460 per year now, and for most is what they pay a monthly here where I work.

  4. Check out ehealthinsurance:

  5. Media General employee here - no increase for us in 2009! As a former Gannettoid I can tell you our fees are already about 60% less than Gannett (at the $80K to $110K range - assuming Gannett still charges by income level) and we are not seeing an increase. Granted Gannett is a much bigger employer but those fees are absurd.

  6. After 20+ years of paying in, I finally got it all back when I had major surgery (upside of $35,000) this year and "only" had to plunk down $3K out of pocket.

    Now I'm trying to find a medically necessary way to get all the other work done to turn me back into that hot young thing of 20 years ago! Before the end of the year, it's free!

    Not really. But you see my point. I might be willing to get all sorts of marginally elective procedures done because right now, my cost is zero.

    However the health care mess gets fixed, it's not just swiping all the profits of the drug and insurance companies and giving it to the un- or underinsured. We're going to have to change how we think about "spare any cost" lifesaving ... or lifestyle-saving... procedures.

    As Gannett is self-insured, my procedure's cost was borne on the backs of 45,000 other employees, and I thank you. My insurance contribution next week will help pay for new babies, heart attacks, prostate cancer and boob jobs - (the last item, all medically necessary, no doubt.)

    Will I bitch like everyone else when Roxanne tells us that 'medical costs continue to skyrocket even in this economy' requiring what I hope is only a 10% increase in our costs? Sure. Bitching is the great American pass time. But if the other option is finding another job or going without insurance, this year gave me 35,000 reasons to suck it up.

  7. Some math to remember - a 2% raise on a $25,000 salary gives you $500 more gross at the end of the year.

    A 10% bump on a $3,000 annual insurance bill is $300 less gross at the end of the year.

    Your insurance bill would have to rise 16% to wipe out your 2% raise.
    If you're making $50k, 2% gets you $1,000 additional gross - and health ins. cost would have to rise 33% to wipe it out.

    I mention the above because it seems some folks think the percentages are directly correlated - i.e. "a 3% insurance cost increase vs. a 2% raise means I'm losing money." Hardly the case.

    But Roxanne, if you're reading - I'd love a 3% rise in insurance cost and not a 33% one!

  8. Finally, someone who can do math brings enlightenment to the discussion (and Jim, you were a business writer so you should know better).

    And I can't believe someone is actually comparing federally subsidized military coverage with the Gannett plan.

  9. While 6:10's math is correct what should also be factored in is, that all other costs are going up as well, so comparing the 10% increase in insurance cost to ones raise is a valid claim. Cost of your food items went up, Gasoline went up, heating oil, membership fees... You get the idea.
    If healtcare insurance was the only thing going up, the percentage comparison was correct, but inflation and increased cost of living hurt us all, some more and some less, but at least Craig got a well deserved bonus to offset any economic problems he might be having. He has done such a stellar job, that I am sure he can expect a bonus next year as well.

  10. Comment to 5:55 about the 35000 reasons to like the insurance plan.
    I am the Tricare guy and I had a couple of major surgeries which was billed at a total of $85.000. Tricare shot back and told the facility and the doctors what they would pay, approx. one third of the billed amount.
    My point is, that the big federally subsidized plan has the power to negotiate much lower prices than most large insurance companies and self insured companies.
    Tricare is a federally run socialized medicine type of plan, one that a majority of people are scared of. It works like a charm, but with some exceptions of course such as our PCP being on a military installation and not in our neighborhood or close to work, but it is a small inconvenience for us compared to the overall good of the plan.
    And to the kind person from 7:55. Yes, I compared our plan to Gannett's and everybody else, and still feel, that people opting out of an insurance plan should be compensated in some way by the employer. They are saving a ton of money by me chosing to use my wife's plan instead of Gannetts.

  11. Now I know why Gannet laid me they could make money on my COBRA!! My COBRA will be over $600 per month for ONE person!!! How in the sam hell am I supposed to pay for that on unemployment? WTF?????? Craid Dubow can suck my BLEEEEEEEEEEP!!

  12. @7:55 a.m.: You're correct; I overstated the impact in my original post. I've reworded the item.

  13. A note from someone who left Gannett recently for another privately owned (non military or government agency)...

    I was under the Gannett BCBS EPO plan with dental and vision and was paying near $800 a month for all three (with all the ridiculous deductible limits and co pays. Under my new company I have BCBS EPO program with 1/3 the deductibles per year, half the co pays per visit and 1/3 the prescription cost for $286/Month.

    Another note is if I had opted for COBRA after leaving, I would have only paid $500 a month more.

  14. @9:47

    COBRA isn't payed to Gannett - it's payed to the health insurance provider and by law, is required to be exactly what the actual premiums are. The whole point of COBRA was to provide a way for someone to leave a company (regardless of why) and have insurance in a way that wouldn't trigger any "pre-existing condition" clauses.

    The cost of COBRA has nothing to do with Gannett, but does show what the cost to Gannett actually was.

  15. The biggest problem with the entire health care industry is that they charge ridiculously high fees for EVERYTHING.

    Case in point: My daughter busted her pinky finger horsing around with a neighbor kid two years ago. Having experience with broken fingers as an athlete, I got some medical tape and taped the pinky to her ring finger for support, and had her ice her hand. There was no doubt in my mind that the finger was broken based on how quickly it turned black and blue and her inability to bend it.

    The next day I took her to her pediatrician, who said, "yeah, looks like it might be, go see an orthopedist." We got charged our $20 copay and the insurance company got charge $90 for a 10-minute office visit. We went to the orthopedist, who X-rayed the finger, showed us a hairline fracture in the pinky, folded an aluminum splint around the pinky and taped it up, taping it to her ring finger for stability. We paid $40 for the specialist copay, and the orthopedist charged $175 for the X-ray and $795 for "surgery" -- putting a $10 aluminum splint on my daughter's finger. When I wrote to the insurance company saying "This is FRAUD, there was no surgery," the insurance company's response was: "The doctor billed it correctly."

    The reason our health premiums and costs are so high is because NO ONE will tell the health industry that charges like this are simply outrageous and no one in a position to do anything will put some clamps on the medical industry.

    Until someone forces reform of the entire system, we're never going to get out of this vicious circle.

  16. 9:02 PM:

    Out patient procedure, item on bill from hospital: "Disposable temperature probe" $995.00. I hate to see the price for a re-useable one!

    Hell, I can go to Radio Shack and buy a thermocoupler for $4.00.

  17. I know this is an old topic, but...
    My costs for insurance when DOWN, about $7 per week. I picked the EPO or whatever they are calling it this year. Granted, payouts are lower 80% -vs- 90%. I was expecting a major increase.


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