Workers Opt for Lower Health Premiums Over Pay Increases
Faced with the option of "putting money in their wallets" or lowering their health care costs, more workers are choosing affordable health care, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports. For example, a four-year contract recently approved by union workers at Briggs & Stratton Corp. sets monthly premiums for one of the family health plans at $235. Before the contract, the premium would have gone up from the current $298 to $542. In exchange for the decrease, union members have agreed to wage increases of 2% in the first year of the contract, which is "well below the five-year average of 3% for factory workers nationwide." George Thompson, a Briggs spokesperson, said, "The cost of health care has become very stressful for the employer and the employees. It's really a tough juggling act, particularly when you're trying to pay a decent wage." Employers this year face health cost hikes of 10% to 18% and many are likely to pass those increases on to employees, the Journal Sentinel reports. In a survey of 126 employers facing new labor agreements this year, 51% said they would seek higher premium contributions, deductibles or copayments to help control health costs. John Goldstein, president of the Milwaukee County Labor Council, said, "Health insurance is a big issue. In some ways, it becomes the only issue" (Dresang, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 7/15).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.