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Sunday, February 17, 2013

The Health Benefits That Cut Your Pay

Not long ago, a 23-year-old woman joined my company as an assistant in the advertising sales department at a starting salary of $35,000. Smart, ambitious and poised, she should have a promising future. Unfortunately, her earnings prospects are threatened. Like many Americans, she’s unaware of how much of her compensation is being eaten up by health care costs, and how much this share will grow as long as the increase in health costs exceeds growth in gross domestic product. That’s just math.

My new employee thinks that she is paying roughly $2,600 for health care in her first year on the job — her $500 deductible plus her $2,100 share of the company’s health insurance premiums. In fact, she’s paying more than $10,000 into the country’s health care system. As her employer, our company will pay $6,190 of her health care costs, money that might otherwise go to her in salary. (From my point of view as a chief executive of a company, health care is just a different form of compensation.) She is also paying more than $1,500 in federal and state taxes to finance Medicare and Medicaid.

Clearly, personal health insurance is not the only way our employees pay into our health care system. There is the 1.45 percent of every paycheck that goes to Medicare, as well as the portion matched by the employer. Furthermore, a large slice of her general taxes are, in fact, health care costs: roughly 20 percent of federal spending and 10 percent of state spending support Medicare and Medicaid. She must pay for all of this.

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