Health care reality catches up with experts at Harvard

The faculty of Harvard is in an uproar, the New York Times reports – the changes to employee health coverage that already hit almost everyone else in America have come to the elite university.

“Professors at Harvard have until now generally avoided the higher expenses that other employers have been passing on to employees,” the paper reports. But health care benefit costs are rising quickly, faster than the university’s revenue or the salaries it pays faculty, the Times reports. Some of those soaring costs are driven by Obamacare, according to the paper – “provisions in the health care law that extend coverage for children up to age 26, offer free preventive services like mammograms and colonoscopies and, starting in 2018, add a tax on high-cost insurance, known as the Cadillac tax.”

graph premiums

So the faculty will pay:

“The university is adopting standard features of most employer-sponsored health plans: Employees will now pay deductibles and a share of the costs, known as coinsurance, for hospitalization, surgery and certain advanced diagnostic tests. The plan has an annual deductible of $250 per individual and $750 for a family. For a doctor’s office visit, the charge is $20. For most other services, patients will pay 10 percent of the cost until they reach the out-of-pocket limit of $1,500 for an individual and $4,500 for a family.”

The plan could have saved some money by narrowing the network of providers, the paper reports, but “some of Boston’s best-known, most expensive hospitals are affiliated with Harvard Medical School. To create a network of high-value providers, Harvard would probably need to exclude some of its own teaching hospitals, or discourage their use.”

Even after these changes, the Times reports, Harvard’s plan will cover 91% of the cost of health care for the typical employee – far more generous a benefit than what Americans forced to buy coverage on Obamacare’s government-run “exchanges” will get. Still, professors are outraged. One tells the paper that increased out-of-pocket costs amount to a pay cut. “It’s equivalent to taxing the sick,” says another.

No, actually it’s equivalent to paying a doctor something for services received — because that’s what it is. It’s what most of America does.

That is the most striking part of the article: These people who are surprised and offended at having to pay part of the cost of their health care include those who have prescribed this exact approach, the Times reports:

“For years, Harvard’s experts on health economics and policy have advised presidents and Congress on how to provide health benefits to the nation at a reasonable cost. But those remedies will now be applied to the Harvard faculty, and the professors are in an uproar. . . .

“The university says the increases are in part a result of the Obama administration’s Affordable Care Act, which many Harvard professors championed.”

A fundamental problem with the Orwellian-named “Affordable Care Act” is that it takes away freedom and choice from consumers – forcing millions to drop the health plans they chose, cutting off access to doctors they trusted. This was part of the design of Obamacare. It was prescribed by experts who believed it would benefit “average Americans.” That we-know-best attitude is part of why Obamacare has remained so unpopular, so unaccepted by the American people.

Now the result is hitting the experts themselves. Perhaps this will be the Harvard faculty’s George McGovern moment.