Study: Both workers, employers pay more
Wednesday, August 19, 2009
By Bill Barrow
New Orleans Times Picayune Staff writer
Louisiana health care premiums, both for employers and workers, have increased dramatically since 2000, with the cost for workers well outpacing the uptick in wages over the same period, according to a national consumer group's new study.
FamiliesUSA Director Ron Pollack said the findings of his researchers underscore the need for a comprehensive overhaul of the nation's health insurance system.
"Congress is moving forward . . . and the key motivating factor is because health care costs continue to skyrocket for businesses and their employees," he said.
The study analyzed premium costs in Louisiana for individual policies and family policies, noting how the cost was split between the employer and employee. It compared the results with the change in median income.
From 2000 to 2009, the worker's share for individual and family policies more than doubled. For an individual, the cost climbed from $434 to $922. Family policy costs for the worker went from $1,850 to $3,836.
Employers' costs also ramped up significantly. For individual policies, the contribution went from $2,164 to $3,388 -- a 57 percent jump. For family policies, the increase was sharper: a 72 percent spike from $4,686 to $8,077.
Combining the worker and business costs, the total increase on family policies was 82 percent, while the individual policy cost jumped 66 percent.
During the same period, median earnings in Louisiana went from $20,467 to $26,688, a 30 percent increase.
The insurance numbers come from data compiled by the federal Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, which collects information from both employers and households. The income measure is taken from the U.S. Census Bureau.
Pollack argued that the numbers are even more stark when considering that many companies have reduced their benefit options or cut insurance altogether.
Louisiana fared better than many other states, Pollack said, in part because the state's income figures rose at a higher clip. Still, other comparisons suggest that a larger percentage of Louisiana adults is without insurance than the national average, and years of national studies shows Louisianians rank poorly in several measures of actual health outcomes, from cancer deaths to diabetes and heart disease.
Pollack's organization supports most of the concepts that President Barack Obama has outlined as he pushes for legislation to reach his desk by the end of this year, but Pollack said Louisianians could see more affordable, accessible health care coverage even without a "public option" that has garnered so much focus.
"There are a number of features in these bills that are designed to deal with those costs," he said, highlighting a focus on better managing a patient's multiple conditions, an effort to pay providers based on diagnoses rather than for each procedure, and an end to "Medicare windfall payments" to private insurance firms.
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Bill Barrow can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 504.826.3452.