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Premiums for Health insurance Soar

early 175 million Americans, could unravel in the face of runaway costs. With employers requiring workers to pay higher out-of-pocket costs several millions of low-income workers are especially at risk. The number of uninsured Americans has grown for five straight years, with 46.6 million lacking coverage in 2005.

In spite of polls showing that health care is a primary concern for families, health care still has not become a top issue for voters in this congressional election year. Altman said, "As a result, health care has little real traction right now as a political issue."

The survey, which is released each year as workers begin open enrollment in health plans, is widely considered the nation's best measure of employer-based coverage. It's based on telephone interviews conducted from January to May with officials from more than 2,000 public and private employers. The response rate was 48 percent.

Despite the rising costs, the percentage that employers pay toward single and family coverage premiums - 84 percent and 73 percent, respectively - is virtually unchanged over the last few years.Smaller firms are most likely not to provide coverage.

According to Jon Gabel, a co-author of the report and the vice president of the Center for Studying Health System Change, premium growth had slowed over the last three years because lowered prices is expected to keep prices low so that market share is improved. He said a lack of new blockbuster drugs also had helped by holding down growth in prescription-drug prices.

The survey found that 7 percent of employers offer high-deductible health plans with savings options, such as tax-favored health savings accounts, that can be used to pay medical expenses. Still, in spite of the heavy promotion by the Bush administration only 4 percent of covered workers are in such plans.


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