In a previous post, I promised to address the negative spin that the Kaiser Family Foundation put on its annual Employer Health Benefits Survey, released this month. I do so in an op‐ed that ran today at the Daily Caller. An excerpt:
The Kaiser Family Foundation recently issued its annual survey of employer‐sponsored health benefits, declaring: “Family Health Premiums Rise 3 Percent to $13,770 in 2010, But Workers’ Share Jumps 14 Percent as Firms Shift Cost Burden.” That’s half‐right — but the other half perpetuates a myth about employee health benefits that stands in the way of real health care reform.…
[Y]ou pay the full cost of your health benefits: partly through an explicit $4,000 premium and partly because your wages are $9,770 lower than they otherwise would be.
Kaiser therefore claims the impossible when it says that firms are shifting costs to workers. Employers cannot shift to workers a cost that workers already bear. Yet this year, as in past years, the Associated Press, Bloomberg, CNN, Kaiser Health News, The Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, NPR, The Wall Street Journal, and The Washington Post uncritically repeated the cost‐shifting myth.
The bolded sentence is Cannon’s Second Rule of Economic Literacy. (Click here for the first rule.)
I have also collected a series of excerpts from past Kaiser Family Foundation surveys showing this is a persistent issue. Here are a few:
1998: “Workers in small firms bear a much larger share of the financial burden for health benefits than employees of larger firms.”
2005: “The average worker paid $2,713 toward premiums for family coverage in 2005 or 26% of the total health premium.”
2007: “Annual Premiums for Family Coverage Now Average $12,106, With Workers Paying $3,281”
The folks at the Kaiser Family Foundation were exceedingly gracious when I approached them to discuss this issue.