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Robert Trigaux

Health care costs still outstrip Floridians' wages



It's hardly a surprise that health care costs continue to suction the dough out of our wallets. Now a new report confirms it for Floridians, but also offers a few interesting twists. Family health care premiums rose an estimated 3.6 times faster than earnings for Florida’s workers from 2000 to 2007, says the report, "Premiums vs. Paychecks"  from the consumer health care advocacy group Families USA. In that seven-year period, family health care premiums rose by 72 percent while median earnings rose by only 20.2 percent. Among the key findings:

  • For family health coverage provided through the workplace in Florida, annual health insurance premiums in the 2000-07 period rose from $6,812 to $11,720—an increase of $4,908, or 72 percent.
  • Between 2000 and 2007, the median earnings of Florida’s workers increased from $22,753 to $27,353—an increase of $4,600, or 20.2 percent.

Anyone who's followed this issue should not be shocked at the resulting squeeze hitting Florida households. But there are some nasty trends emerging from these figures. More Floridians -- pressed not only by health care costs but also rising expenses of gasoline, housing, insurance and a weak job market -- are more likely to drop their insurance coverage as unaffordable, or choose marginal coverage and thus become "underinsured," the report suggests. One of every four Floridians under age 65 is uninsured.

Another blow? Floridians who get their health care coverage through their workplace are finding they are paying a rising percentage of the premiums. In other words, employers are paying more, but more of the overall increase is being paid by the employee. Here's how that works:

  • For family health coverage in Florida, the employer’s portion of annual premiums in 2000-07 rose from $4,843 to $7,899. That's an increase of $3,056, or 63.1 percent.
  • For family health coverage, the worker’s portion of annual premiums rose from $1,969 to $3,821. That's an increase of $1,852, or 94.1 percent.
  • For individual health coverage, the employer’s portion of annual premiums rose from $2,096 to $3,266. That's up $1,170, or 55.8 percent.
  • For individual health coverage, the worker’s portion of annual premiums rose from $504 to $910. That's up $406, or 80.5 percent.

"If this trend continues, the affordability crisis will get much worse and more Floridians will become uninsured and underinsured," said Ron Pollack, executive director of Families USA, during a Wednesday morning teleconference on the report. "And Floridians will face diminishing health and economic security."

The silver lining? Florida's premium-vs.-paycheck numbers were less onerous than the nation's, Pollack acknowledges. While Florida health care premiums rose 72 percent from 2000 to 2007, nationally they rose 78.3 percent. And while Florida's median earnings rose just 20.2 percent in that same period, the nation's as a whole increased just 14.5 percent.

-- Robert Trigaux, Times Business Columnist


[Last modified: Tuesday, June 1, 2010 11:22am]


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