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Health care costs

Health care costs skyrocket in United States, threatening to bankrupt national economy

Wednesday, September 27, 2006 by: Ben Kage
Tags: health care costs, health care crisis, health care reform


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(NewsTarget) According to the annual "Survey of Employer Health Benefits," a report released Tuesday by the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation and the Health Research and Educational Trust, health care costs in the United States have risen 7.7 percent between spring 2005 and spring 2006.

While this increase is the smallest in seven years, critics note that the rates still surged twice as fast as the overall inflation of worker wages. Currently, 16 percent of the United States' gross domestic product goes toward health care spending, and experts predict that that number will climb to 25 percent by 2030, according to Julius A. Karash's Sept. 27 editorial in The Kansas City Star. Additionally, the number of uninsured people climbed by 1.3 million, bringing the total number of uninsured in the U.S. to 46.6 million.

"(The U.S. health care system) is unsustainable over time," said William L. Bruning, president and chief executive officer of the Mid-America Coalition on Health Care, a group of Kansas City employers, health providers, government officials and others looking for ways to improve the health care system. Bruning said the fact that health care continues to create a financial drag on businesses and employees means that "inevitably, there's going to have to be a reckoning."

"If we don't make radical changes in our approach to health, these costs will bankrupt our nation," warned Mike Adams, author of "The Five Habits of Health Transformation." "We cannot create economic prosperity by ignoring prevention, promoting disease, and treating all health conditions with patented pharmaceuticals. Any real solution must involve serious efforts to prevent degenerative disease in the first place."

Other findings by the Kaiser/Trust survey include:

-- Health insurance premiums went up an average of 87 percent since 2000, on a cumulative basis. During the same period, workers earnings have risen 20 percent and inflation has increased 18 percent overall.

-- Currently, employers' health benefits cover 59 percent of workers at companies with more than two employees, which is down 6 percent from 2001. That means employers cover 5 million fewer workers than they did in 2001.

-- The average worker contributes $248 a month for family health care coverage, which is up from $129 a month in 1999, despite the total percentage of premiums paid by covered employees remaining at 27 percent.

-- Of the respondent companies that offer health insurance, 49 percent said they were "very likely" or "somewhat likely" to raise their health insurance rates next year.

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