Insights and Trends in Business and Society


Have We Created a Benefits Monster With a Voracious Appetite?

I have been covering employee benefits as a professional writer for many years. I have noticed that every fall there is a drive among employers and their brokers to come up with benefit package enhancements that will help in the competition for talented workers. Simply put, employers are looking for new benefits they can add without busting the budget. Brokers do their best to answer the call.

All of this leads me to wonder if we have created a benefits monster with a voracious appetite. Think about it. Why do employers work with their brokers to enhance benefits packages? Because they believe that better benefits keep employees on the payroll. Better benefits are necessary to recruit new workers.

All of that is well and good, but we are living at a time when bad economics are killing both personal and business budgets. Everybody wants more for everything. This includes employees who are continually asking for bigger and better benefits packages to keep them happy. Employers can acquiesce, but at what cost question?

Drug Prices Are Through the Roof

The best way to explain the idea of a benefits monster with an insatiable appetite is to look at prescription drug prices. We all know that prescription meds cost far more than they should. But consider this: one of the hottest drugs in the market right now is the diabetic drug known as Ozempic. It turns out that Ozempic also works pretty well to help obese people lose weight. Guess what? The drug is in high demand.

Ozempic is also extremely expensive. According to the LA Times, it can run anywhere from $936-$1,350 per month. Ozempic is so expensive that most insurance plans no longer cover it. As for the drug’s maker, they can charge that much because people are willing to pay for it. That is what makes all this so alarming.

Costs for medication are up across the board. My wife has a prophylactic prescription for a common antibiotic taken daily. She has been on this prescription for years. It used to cost under $10 per month. In recent years, however, the price tag has tripled.

Health Insurance is a Major Contributor

What many people don’t know, and are offended to learn about, is the fact that health insurance is a major contributor to skyrocketing healthcare costs. Hospitals, private practices, specialists, et al set their prices based mainly on the amount insurance companies are willing to reimburse. Health insurance providers have no qualms about artificially inflating costs in order to drive their own profits. In fact, they excel at it.

Meanwhile, insurance brokers are at their wits end trying to find affordable benefits for their clients. They turn to general agencies like Dallas-based BenefitMall for access to hundreds of carriers and their respective products. And still, they cannot find packages that meet the demand without busting the budget.

The icing on the cake comes by way of employers – usually big corporations – that are not afraid to pay whatever price insurance companies demand to give benefits that workers want. And workers increasingly want more with each passing year. It is a dangerous combination that just continues to add to the cost of healthcare. The more we all demand, the more we need to pay for it.

Note that there is plenty of blame to go around here. All of us – consumers, insurance companies, health industry players, and the government – have joined forces to create a benefits monster with a voracious appetite. The only way to put an end to it all is to destroy the beast entirely.


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