Health premiums rising faster than earnings : Corrinne Hess

Since 2000, health insurance premiums paid by Wisconsin employers for family and individual health coverage rose 4.6 times faster than earnings, according to a new report.

The report, “Costly Coverage: Premiums Outpace Paychecks In Wisconsin,” released by Families USA, shows the situation is even worse for workers.

For a family health insurance policy, average employees’ share of premiums have increased 141 percent, or 6.9 times faster than wages.

Families USA is a national organization for health care consumers.

“Rising health care costs threaten the financial well-being of families across the country,” Ron Pollack, executive director of Families USA, said Tuesday during a teleconference. “If health care reform doesn’t happen soon, more families will be priced out of coverage they used to take for granted.”

Nationally health insurance premiums rose quite significantly over the past 10 years. On average, insurance premiums for family coverage rose 93 percent.

At the same time this occurred, median earnings rose by 19 percent, Pollack said.

“What is so surprising about these increases is these premiums now purchase thinner coverage that come with higher deductibles, higher co-pays and less benefits,” Pollack said.

Families USA released reports on health insurance premiums as they relate to earnings for Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Kansas, Minnesota, New Mexico, Oklahoma Oregon, South Dakota, Texas, Washington and Wisconsin Tuesday.

Oklahoma had the lowest premium growth compared with earnings, at 3 percent, while Alaska and Washington had the highest at 5.3 percent.

In Michigan, where Families USA did not release a report but did have data, health insurance premiums rose 12.9 times faster than wages.

Other findings in the Wisconsin report include:

• For family health insurance coverage provided at work in Wisconsin, the average annual health insurance premium (employer and worker’s share together) rose from $7,112 in 2000 to $13,772 in 2009.

• For family health coverage, the worker’s portion of annual premiums rose from $1,458 to $3,512, an increase of 141 percent.

• Between 2000 and 2009, the median earnings of Wisconsin workers rose $4,974, or 20.4 percent.

“In the case of health care reform, the numbers don’t lie,” said Robert Kraig, program director for Citizen Action of Wisconsin. “This new report makes it is very clear that the rate of health insurance inflation in Wisconsin is completely unsustainable, particularly given the stagnation of wages in Wisconsin.”

In Milwaukee, area employers paid between 4 and 9 percent more for health care premiums than the national average in 2009, according to the results of two surveys: a nationwide survey conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation and the Health Research & Education Trust,


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