Health-Care Reform After Obamacare

The Debate We Are Not Having Of all the pressures that have built on the American family since the 1960s, few have been as consequential as the relentlessly rising yet still largely hidden cost of health care. If it seems like families a generation ago had a much easier time affording the cost of children and the trappings of a middle-class lifestyle, here is one large reason why: money and time that could once go to other life purposes, including to cover the forgone wages of those who stayed home and invested more time with their children, today must be devoted to covering the health-care sector’s rising tax on American families. One way to see how this is so is to consider the dramatic increase in the numbers of hours that family breadwinners must today work in order to earn enough to cover the mounting cost of health care. In 1964, health-care spending was still an incidental cost in most family budgets. It amounted to just $197 per person per year. Given prevailing wages at the time, this meant that with a mere 78 hours of labor (or by the end of the second work week in January, for those working full-time), the average nonsupervisory worker earned enough to cover the per capita cost of health care. But since then, year after year, health care costs have risen relentlessly faster than have both individual and family incomes. As a result, by 2012, a typical worker had to put in 452 hours to cover the average per capita burden of medical expenses, which by then had risen to more than $8,915. Put another way, it was not until nearly March of that year before the typical American working a 40-hour week earned enough to pay the health-care sector’s growing claim on his or her output.[1] Americans covered by employer-sponsored health insurance plans (and most still are) often do not realize how deeply health-care costs are eroding their standard of living because they imagine that their employers are picking up much of the tab. But this is an illusion
Please subscribe or log in to read the rest of this content.