A Project of The Annenberg Public Policy Center

Readers Talk Back on Insurance Costs

We received a number of e-mails after we said, in our article "Pushing for a Public Plan," that "the average monthly payment for workers with employer-sponsored coverage is … $280 for a family policy." It seems that a lot of you weren’t satisfied with the finding, which is from the Kaiser Family Foundation.

A sampling:

My Family policy with BCBS had a $500 [deductible] for all 3 members and my bill was $800 a month. We now have a group policy for all 5 members of our 2 optical shops, each with a $1500 [deductible] and our monthly bill is just shy of $3000. … This year they raised the premium 30% because 2 members used the policy for surgery.

I want to bear witness to the fact that I and a partner own a small business … with small business group insurance with United Health Care. My premium and his for ourselves and our wives is $2500/Month each, totaling $30,000 each per year ($60,000 a year for the 2 families). That’s for a group plan. And its not just us. My twin brother also owns a small business … with small business group insurance – and his premiums are also $2500/month or $30,000/year.

I’m not paying the “average” amount for health coverage of $250 for a family, but $450/month for a $3,000-deductible individual policy!

We have the lowest cost policy offered from my husband’s employer and for 2 people it is over $400.000 monthly. Our old coverage that is still an HMO now costs $250.00 a week….yes, a week. With our coverage we are one illness or accident away from going bankrupt.

We assume everyone has heard the quip about the man who drowned crossing a stream that was, on average, six inches deep. An average is a representative value, determined (in this case) by adding up all the individual premium payments and dividing by the number of people surveyed. If everyone paid around $280, more or less, the costs would average out around there — but costs could also average to $280 if some people paid less and some more, even much more. That’s the case here. An average is a statistical measure, meaning that it doesn’t necessarily reflect any one person’s real-life experience.

What does this mean? Our readers’ experiences paying high rates for insurance don’t invalidate Kaiser’s finding that the average family’s monthly contribution for employer-sponsored coverage is $280 per month. But it’s also true that insurance is not affordable for all, and we never meant to imply otherwise.