Health care prices

Brokers' incentives to keep health care premiums high

In this image, an elderly man in a gray sweater sits next to his doctor, a dark haired woman holding a clipboard.
Photo: Getty Images

Employers often turn to brokers to help them find the right health care plan for their workers. But there's a catch: Brokers have several layers of incentives to steer companies toward plans with higher premiums.

How it works: For starters, brokers' commission is a percentage of the plan's total annual premium. Higher premium, higher commission. But there's more, as ProPublica reports.

America's health care economy keeps ballooning

Data: Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services and CIA World FactBook; Note: All values adjusted for inflation as of 2018; Chart: Harry Stevens/Axios

Americans spent $3.65 trillion on health care in 2018, according to new preliminary estimates from independent federal actuaries. That total is about the same size as Spain and Canada's entire economies — combined.

Why it matters: U.S. health spending last year was 4.4% higher than in 2017, a rate that is still growing faster than the broader economy — which means more money is being taken out of people's paychecks to pay for a system that continues to worry and frustrate patients.

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