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Survey: Health Care Costs Rising Again Next Year

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September 29, 2008

Isabel, SD – Nearly 60 percent of American companies are planning to deal with rising costs of providing health insurance to their employees by raising worker deductibles and co-pays, according to a national survey by Mercer Consulting Services. Health care provider Pam Locken with Prairie Community Health, a group of five community health centers in north-central South Dakota, says that's bad news for families already challenged with incomes that aren't keeping pace with inflation. She warns that increasing deductibles and co-pays will force more families to neglect preventative care.

"Right now there are so many things pulling on their purse strings. People say, 'Well I don’t need that unless I get sick.' But they do need it. They postpone care, and then some of them end up in the hospital with things they probably could have taken care of if they had come in earlier, but they didn't want to spend the money."

Locken says the state's community health centers are playing a bigger role every year helping South Dakota residents who are being squeezed by the mounting costs.

"Through our sliding fee, we help people even if they're insured, as long as they meet our income guidelines. We can write off part of their deductible because they'll meet their deductible here instead of in a hospital. We are here for the underinsured, uninsured and underserved."

If it weren't for the community health centers in Eagle Butte, Faith, Isabel, Bison and McIntosh, Locken says many people in this part of South Dakota would not receive health care.

The Mercer survey projects health care costs increasing by 5.7 percent in 2009, following a 5.7 percent increase this year and a 6.1 percent increase in 2007.

David Law/Steve Powers, Public News Service - SD