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>> I much appreciate your comprehensive reply and referenced information.

You hit the nail on the head with respect to employer-provided healthcare.

Over the past five years, my *Fortune 100* employer has continued to chip away at health care benefits to the point where company benefits are now roughly comparable to those offered by small businesses.

Until 2002, we paid nothing for employer-provided medical benefits. In 2003, we paid $50 every pay period (twice a month) and in 2004 we paid $82. This year it's down to $75 again, but only because we went to a new plan with higher deductible (and the company gives us $2000 in an account -- similar to, but different than -- an HSA, to pay them). The standard plan is up to around $90 now, I think; it was rather remarkable that our company's premium only rose 6% this year for the same plan.

In another year or two I wouldn't be surprised if we had a true HSA plan. I'd actually like to enroll in one of those, because if we FIRE or otherwise become self-employed in our future, I think that would be how we'd deal with health insurance, and by that time -- barring unforeseen medical problems -- we could have a few grand in such an account before we take that plunge *and* the actual premiums would be considerably more affordable.

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