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Report: Premiums Up, Health Care Access in TN Down

October 2, 2008

Nashville, TN – Could health insurance companies face the same fate as some of the nation's big financial institutions? Consumer advocates say it's a possibility, without better regulation of the industry.

According to a study of major health insurers by the Northwest Federation of Community Organizations (NFCO), premiums and co-pay rates continue to go up, prompting more people to drop their coverage, from individuals to small business owners.

As lawmakers in Washington continue to debate how to rescue failing housing and banking industries, Dierdra Reed, an organizer for the group Tennessee Healthcare for America Now, believes insurers could be the next victims of corporate mismanagement.

"One of the last frontiers for regulation is the health insurance industry. Unless we tighten the reins, we could see the same thing happening with health insurers."

In Tennessee, Reed says, the NFCO report finds that rural areas are hardest hit, with fewer options for reasonably-priced health care.

"In places where there aren't a lot of hospitals, and smaller numbers of nonprofit clinics, folks are really looking at a lot of medical debt."

The problem is not limited to people with catastrophic illnesses, Reed adds. Families of children born with chronic but manageable conditions, such as asthma, are being charged higher premiums or, in some cases, dropped from the insurance rolls.

The report is online, at
www.nwfco.org.

Barbara Dab/Don Mathisen, Public News Service - TN