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Front Page » November 7, 2006 » Local News » Report compares Utah median earnings, health care premium...
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Report compares Utah median earnings, health care premium increases


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Health care premiums rose an estimated 7.3 times faster than earnings for Utah's working families from 2000 to 2006.

According to a report recently issued by consumer organization Families USA, health care premiums jumped by 71.8 percent while median earnings climbed by only 9.9 percent during the six-year period in question.

The Families USA report is the first of its kind to document the changes on a state-specific basis.

The key findings in the consumer organization's report include:

•For family health coverage provided through the workplace in Utah, annual health insurance premiums in the 2000-2006 period jumped from $6,305 to $10,832 .

The jump represents an increase of $4,527 or 71.8 percent.

•Between 2000 and 2006, the median earnings of Utah's workers increased from $21,497 to $23,620 or 9.9 percent.

The report indicated that the disproportionately high increases in insurance premiums occurred despite the provision of "thinner coverage" to workers.

Thinner coverage provides fewer benefits and/or comes with higher consumer deductibles, co-payments and co-insurance.

As a result, families in Carbon County and across Utah are paying more but receiving less in health care coverage, pointed out the consumer health organization.

The Families USA report concludes that the confluence of higher health costs and stagnant wages is causing a growing number of Utah families to join the ranks of the uninsured and under-insured.

The number of non-elderly uninsured people in Utah is more than 376,000 - approximately 16.6 percent of the non-elderly population.

"Utah families have been hit hard in the pocketbooks due to skyrocketing health costs and stagnant wages," noted Ron Pollack, director of Families USA.

"As a result, Utahns are paying much larger portions of their paychecks on health care - and health care is becoming less and less affordable," added the consumer organization's ddirector.

The key findings in the report provide data concerning premiums for family health coverage as well as individual coverage.

The findings also break out the premium costs paid by employers and those paid by employees.

The key findings of the report include:

•For family coverage in Utah, the employer's portion of annual premiums in the 2000-2006 period rose from $4,861 to $7,810, an increase of 60.7 percent.

•For family coverage, the worker's portion rose from $1,444 to $3,022, an increase of 109.3 percent.

•For individual coverage, the employer's portion of annual premiums rose from $2,003 to $2,926, an increase of 46.1 percent.

•For individual coverage, the worker's portion rose from $582 to $741, an increase of 27.3 percent.

Rapidly rising health care costs are causing increasing numbers of people to go into debt, indicated the consumer organization. The report cites a study that found that more than one-half of bankruptcies are now due, at least in part, to problems with medical costs.

"If this troubling trend continues, the health care affordability crisis will get much worse and many more Utahns will become uninsured and under-insured," said Pollack. "If earnings continue to lag behind fast-rising health care costs, Utahns will face diminishing economic and health security. It is high time for national leaders to address this growing problem and make it a top national priority."

The Families USA report is based on data provided by the United States Census Bureau and the U.S. Department of Labor as well as the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.


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