I believe in free markets and capitalism, but today's healthcare system hardly qualifies.
You will read many articles on the internet that complain about circumstances. We pay taxes, and sometimes we even vote for those taxes. We want better roads, schools, and conveniences. The hope is that those in positions of leadership will actually be good stewards of the capital we entrust them with. Yet, if we are honest, it seems that each dollar never quite gets to the place it is intended, and the people of our communities are stuck feeding the unquenchable thirst of our government. But when it comes to healthcare costs, there is no denying that the thirst for more is self-serving. As a business owner, I believe in profit, but in many or most businesses, the government does not box in the consumer, give the business a market demand and allow for the bilking of the consumer to exist with impunity. That is the exception we face here. That is the harsh reality that leaves the American people feeling helpless and, many times, broke.
As business owners, we have a responsibility to balance growth with providing the best possible environment for those who walk with us. That means providing benefits and balancing those benefits with compensation for our work family. Profits shrink, as many businesses—regardless of the industry—balance rising fixed costs, margin compression, changes in platform costs to advertise, and government burdens and restrictions that seem to be designed to crush or hinder small-to-medium businesses. This includes healthcare options and pricing.
I decided to do some research as we were headed into open enrollment. I wanted to see what the profits looked like for healthcare companies as we assessed our needs as a company and how to offer the best coverage options to our team. What I found disgusted me. Costs for coverage saw an average increase of nearly 23 percent. Since coverage is age banded, for those who were over the age of 40, the increase was nearly 31 percent higher. IF you take into account the loss of coverage as the cost increase came with higher deductibles and exclusions, the coverage amounted to what can only be described as egregious.
I believe in free markets and capitalism, but what we have today hardly qualifies. It is a beast that is out of control as the thirst for more profits at every level of the healthcare system seemingly strips people of the ability to thrive. Business owners see increases that strain an already diminished profitability and individuals see costs skyrocket in proportion to the rising costs, all while the level of service by providers is reduced, all in an effort to make more.
Don't believe me? Let me show you.
In 2019, Kaiser Permanente posted a Q1 profit of $3.2 billion, up from 2018 Q1 profits of $1.4 billion, a 127 percent increase in profitability for the healthcare giant. Fast-forward to Q2 of 2019, profits rose 315 percent to $2.05 billion from $653 million in Q2 2018. United Healthcare posted a 2019 Q1 profit of $3.5 billion representing a 22 percent increase over the $2.8 billion in Q1 2018. In 2019 Q2, United Healthcare posted a $3.3 billion profit up 12.7 percent over the 2018 Q2 profits of $2.9 billion.
These profits do not include corporate writedowns, suspended revenue, or other pre-profit deductions. I could break it down for you even more, but it is safe to say that our 20-25 percent increase we seem to face every year in healthcare costs is nothing more than a boon in increased profits to satisfy investors in an already fat, happy, and greedy ecosystem. The harsh reality is there are no checks and balances, no studies to see how it affects the average family, and no advocacy that is happening for the people in stopping this out-of-control feeding frenzy on the American people.
In December 1773, there was this thing called the Boston Tea Party. Many believe this was about being taxed. The reality is this was more about unfair advantage given on the import of goods that were not subject to taxes or being taxed on goods, making it difficult to compete—an unequal system designed to make it more difficult for those in the community to make a living. The saying “no taxation without representation” became the motto that led to the American Revolution.
Today, we have a system of healthcare that has become a boat anchor to many families, taking away options for their children and pushing mothers and fathers to work tirelessly long after the normal age of retirement. It has become a system where we are the commodity chasing absorbent increased profits.
There are no checks and balances—and nobody at the state level or the federal level is even paying attention to what is happening.
So where do we go from here?