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Monday, April 1, 2013

Would You Rather Pay Pennies More for a Burger or a $1,000 More on Health Coverage?

Amy Traver

Staff Writer

Lately, some employers, such as Wendy’s and a Five Guys franchise in North Carolina, have started to grumble about having to pay a penalty if they do not provide quality, affordable health coverage options to their employees starting in 2014. They claim that this requirement will force them to raise prices on their products and pass the cost onto consumers.

But the truth is that consumers will foot a much heftier bill if these companies don’t provide health coverage for their employees.

When uninsured Americans eventually end up in the emergency rooms of our hospitals (maybe because their conditions have worsened as they avoided seeing doctors because they couldn’t afford to or because they have nowhere else to go), doctors thankfully treat them regardless of their ability to pay. Doctors and hospitals who provide uncompensated care to the uninsured make up their losses by charging insurers more for services they provide to patients with health insurance coverage. And those costs, in turn, are passed on to consumers and businesses in the form of higher premiums. This hidden health tax is estimated to be approximately $1,000 for a family plan annually. That’s one thousand additional dollars!

Wouldn’t you rather pay a couple pennies extra for a cheeseburger every once in a while than a thousand dollars extra for your health insurance premium? I know I would.

All of us—businesses and consumers, the insured and uninsured—stand to gain from employers sponsoring quality, affordable health coverage for their employees.