Right now, inflation is surging in the United States, with no signs of slowing down anytime soon. In fact, it rose 9.1% in June—even more than expected—and its effects are hitting lower-income Americans the hardest. This is especially true for the cost of health care, which is predicted to rise 6.5% in 2022, according to the PwC Health Research Institute. The result? A worsening health disparity in a health care system that already disadvantages most Americans.

Rising costs of labor and supplies are driving health care pricing increases, a trend that was predicated in 2021 and remains true in 2022. Rather than rethinking their health care offerings, many employers are passing along these rising costs to employees. While those with higher income salaries may be able to better absorb these costs, the same cannot be said for lower-income or middle-class employees. These workers, many of whom are paid hourly, are seeing their paycheck chewed up by rising costs, making it difficult for them to cover basic necessities like food, housing and childcare.

Options are limited for the majority of working Americans who get their health insurance through their employer. High deductible health plans (HDHPs) and preferred provider organization (PPO) plans are hallmarked by high premiums and deductibles, hidden and unpredictable out-of-pocket expenses, minimal support, and lack of transparency to understand utilization and cost drivers. For workers on these types of plans, even the slightest rise in their costs could mean choosing between food and a life-saving prescription medication or much-needed doctor visit. Today, many employees choose to either skip treatment or forgo health care benefits entirely to save money. And those who decide to move forward often find themselves in debt without the means to escape easily.

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