Tuesday, April 05, 2005

It's Healthcare - But At What Cost?

To keep health coverage, more workers are cutting back on food, heat
and other necessities. Still, many of them eventually will lose the battle.

By Daniel Costello, LA Times Staff Writer

Terri MATTHEWS, a teacher's aide in East Palo Alto, spends $613 a month for her family's health insurance — 24% of her take-home pay. Rather than go without coverage, she skimps on other needs; her heat has been turned off twice in the last year and she recently had to drop her car insurance.

Peggy McPhee, a 52-year-old bridal dressmaker in Santa Rosa, spends more than a quarter of her salary on health insurance. She's recently given up her cellphone, buys clothing only at garage sales and no longer turns on her heat in the winter.

Ron Dybas, of Los Banos, chose to close his lumber company two months ago after 17 years in business. He says he took a job with a company that offers benefits after he no longer could afford to spend nearly a third of his income insuring his family.

Many people, especially lower- and middle-class workers and the chronically ill, are beginning to spend a once-unimaginable share of their income on health coverage. In some cases, health costs have become the single biggest expense in family budgets.

The strain on employees and their families isn't likely to abate any time soon. Estimates are that health expenses will continue to increase three to four times as fast as salaries over the next several years. More Americans, even the comfortably middle class, could soon find themselves in a similar position..... [Full Story]


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