As the supporters and opponents of the public option in the healthcare reform continue to fiercely debate the merits of their positions, the Kaiser Family Foundation has published a new report that suggests health insurance costs for Americans are escalating.
The 2009 Employer Health Benefits Survey says premiums for employer-sponsored health insurance increased by 5 percent from last year—to $13,375 annually for family coverage—even though the rate of inflation fell by 0.7 percent in the same period.
The study was released jointly with the Health Research & Educational Trust (HRET).
Kaiser President and CEO Drew Altman says the reason the country is engaged in the health reform debate is because when costs continue to rise faster than inflation in the context of a severe recession, both workers and employers feel the pain.
Many employers deal with the rising costs by offering high-deductible plans, and the number of employees covered by such plans is growing. According to the survey, a total of 22 percent of covered workers have to pay at least $1,000 out of pocket this year before their plan kicks in.
This represents an increase of 18 percent from last year.
During the past 10 years, the cost of premiums rose by 131 percent, more than three times faster than worker wages and four times general inflation, the study also found.
"[Our] survey results demonstrate the need for comprehensive, meaningful reform," says Maulik S. Joshi, president of HRET.
He adds, "Our nation faces a unique opportunity to achieve reform and build a better healthcare system that improves care for patients and provides coverage for all at an affordable cost."