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Without Reform, U.S. Health Costs Expected to Rise

Average insurance premiums ranged from $11,000 to over $13,500 for families in 2008, report finds

THURSDAY, Aug. 20 (HealthDay News) -- From 1999 to 2008, family premiums for Americans with employer-sponsored health insurance increased 119 percent and could rise another 94 percent, to an average of $23,842 by 2020, if health-care costs continue to increase at current rates, a report released Thursday shows.

The Commonwealth Fund paper also concluded that national reforms that limit health-care cost increases by 1 percent to 1.5 percent per year would lead to major savings for families and businesses. For example, slowing the annual rate of health spending growth by 1 percent would achieve more than $2,500 in lower family premiums, and reducing the rate of growth by 1.5 percent would lead to more than $3,700 in premium savings compared to current trends.

"With health spending projected to double if we stay on our current path, middle- and lower-income families are at high risk of losing their coverage or facing long-term stagnant incomes," study author Cathy Shoen, senior vice president of the Commonwealth Fund, said in a news release. "Employers and employees share premium costs, but we know that take-home pay and retirement savings are being sacrificed to maintain health benefits. Reforms that slow the growth of health-care costs could go a long way toward health and financial stability for working families."

The Commonwealth Fund is a private foundation that supports independent research on health issues.

A state-by-state analysis revealed that employer-based premiums for family coverage increased an average of 33 percent between 2003 and 2008, ranging from a low of 25 percent in Michigan, Texas and Ohio to a high of 45 percent in Indiana and North Carolina.

In 2008, family premiums were highest in Indiana, Massachusetts, Minnesota and New Hampshire, with the highest premium being more than $13,500. The lowest average premiums -- around $11,000 -- were in Idaho, Iowa and Hawaii.

"These rapid premium increases aren't sustainable for families or employers," Commonwealth Fund President Karen Davis said in the news release. "If we craft patient-centered reform that focuses on improving quality and efficiency, and bending the cost curve, the insured in every state stand to benefit. We could assure coverage and, over time, make more money available for wages, retirement and other family needs."

More information

The U.S. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality has more about health insurance.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: The Commonwealth Fund, news release, Aug. 20, 2009

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