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Americans paying more for health insurance

U.S. workers who get health insurance coverage through their employers paid an average of 79 percent more in 2003 than they did in 1996, according to a report.
/ Source: Reuters

U.S. workers who get health insurance coverage through their employers paid an average of 79 percent more in 2003 than they did in 1996, according to a report.

And employers paid an average of 89 percent more, the U.S. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality found.

The agency’s survey of 48,000 U.S. employers also found a steady increase in premiums in more recent years.

“Premiums in 2003 increased by 9.2 percent for single coverage, 10 percent for employee-plus one coverage, and 9.2 percent for family coverage over the prior year, continuing a trend of increasing premiums observed each year since the start of the survey in 1996,” reads the report, available on the Internet at http://www.meps.ahrq.gov/papers/st90/stat90.pdf.

The agency’s Medical Expenditure Panel Survey found that health insurance premiums have increased every year since the start of the survey in 1996.

“The average employee contributed $2,283 for family coverage in 2003, compared to only $1,275 in 1996. Even when adjusted for inflation, this was a 51.2 percent increase over the seven year period,” the AHRQ said.

“The average employer’s contribution for a private-sector employee taking family coverage increased by 89.3 percent (59.9 percent when adjusted for inflation) -- from $3,679 in 1996 to $6,966 in 2003.”

An estimated 63 percent of Americans get their insurance through their employers or through a family member’s job.

Experts say the costs of providing health care have risen greatly, in part because of expensive new medical technology and in part because of the rising use and cost of prescription drugs.

Many companies have sought ways to limit costs, by introducing health management organizations (HMOs) and by offering workers health savings accounts (HSAs), which let employees keep and invest whatever dollars they do not spend.