Health Rates Rose Fast in West

September 16, 2009

Family health care premiums rose an estimated three to five times faster than earnings for workers in Western states from 2000 through 2009, according to a report issued by the consumer health organization Families USA.

In California, for example, family health insurance premiums rose by 109.2 percent during the period, while median earnings rose by only 25.5 percent.

In California, the average annual health insurance premium for family coverage (employer and worker share of premiums combined) during 2000 to 2009 rose from $6,227 to $13,026, or 109.2 percent, while the median earnings of California workers rose from $25,740 to $32,304, or 25.5 percent.

In Alaska, the average annual premium rose from $7,456 to $14,226, or 91 percent, which was five times faster than earnings rose.

In Washington state, the average premium rose five times faster also, from $6,500 to $13,860, or 113 percent.

In Arizona, the average premium rose three times faster than earnings, from $6,767 to $13,066, or 93.1 percent.

In Colorado, the average premium rose four times faster, from $6,797 to $12,705, or 86.9 percent.

In Oregon, Utah, and New Mexico, the average premium also rose four times faster than earnings.

The report said that the high increases in insurance premiums have occurred at the same time that employees have been receiving “thinner coverage”–that is, coverage with fewer benefits and/or higher deductibles, more copayments, and more co-insurance. Other employers have cut costs by placing limits on which employees are eligible for coverage or by eliminating coverage for spouses and children of employees.

“If health care reform does not happen soon, more and more families will be priced out of the health coverage they used to take for granted,” said Ron Pollack, executive director of Families USA, in a release accompanying the report.

Another downside of rising costs is the loss of health coverage altogether, the report said. Between 2000 and 2008, the total percentage of U.S. firms offering health coverage declined by 6 percentage points–from 69 percent of firms to 63 percent–with small businesses being the most likely to drop coverage.

The report, which has been issued since 2006, is based on data from the U.S. Census Bureau, the U.S. Department of Labor, and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

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