Health Care Still Major Challenge

Steubenville’s budget crunch could be Exhibit A in the case for real health insurance reform in the United States. Unfortunately, there is no prospect of it happening anytime soon.

That leaves city officials — and their counterparts in other local municipalities and counties — stuck behind the 8-ball.

Last week, Steubenville Finance Director Dave Lewis warned the municipal budget for next year is going to be hit hard by health care spending.

In 2018, the city and its employees have shelled out about $2.2 million for health care, Lewis noted. Next year, the tab is expected to be $2.99 million. That is an increase of nearly 36 percent.

It could have been worse. Initially, costs next year were expected to top $3.15 million. An adjustment in out-of-pocket amounts employees will pay shaved the city budget number down somewhat.

That means Steubenville employees will pay about $94,000 more for their health care next year. Taxpayers’ share will skyrocket by about $716,000.

Obviously, that is an unsustainable trend.

Americans have become accustomed to looking to Washington for solutions. Recent history reminds us that is not a realistic policy on this challenge.

It appears city officials have done all they can to hold costs down. They need not be reminded that, going forward, they need to keep their eyes open for every opportunity to hold health care costs down.

What else? There is strength in numbers. Municipalities and county governments should seize opportunities for collaboration among themselves, state governments — even, if possible, the private sector. Good ideas and strategies are out there.

So is the potential for group purchasing of health insurance. That can slim down costs for various reasons, including economies of scale and the power of numbers in negotiating insurance premiums.

Steubenville officials during the past several years have become experts in budget crunches. It would be nice to see some light at the end of that tunnel — but for now, the outlook remains gloomy.

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