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Report: AZ Health Insurance Premiums Rising Three Times As Fast As Wages

September 22, 2009

PHOENIX, Ariz. - Even families who have health insurance may soon be priced out of the market. A new study from Families USA confirms that the cost of private health insurance in Arizona is rising at three times the rate of typical workers' earnings.

Ron Pollack, the executive director of Families USA, says the gap over the past decade is even wider nationally than in Arizona.

"Health insurance premiums for family coverage rose by 93 percent on average nation-wide. Median earnings rose by only 19 percent."

Families USA favors health care reform that includes a public option. Critics say that would eventually lead to a government take-over of health care, but Pollack says doing nothing will soon put insurance coverage out of reach for American businesses and families.

Tim Schmaltz, coordinator for the Protecting Arizona's Family Coalition (PAFCO), also supports a government health care option to hold down insurance costs through competition.

"We had one co-payment go from five dollars to 40 dollars for a particular prescription. You can't go 40-to-80 and 80-to-120. I think the insurance companies will adapt. That's the nature of the marketplace. "

Opponents of a public option point to Medicare as an example of a government health care program that they say doesn't control its costs. Schmaltz thinks Medicare is getting a bum rap because of several factors.

"It's related to the expanding population, end-of-life care where people are living much longer than anticipated, the under-estimations of the pharmaceutical benefit."

Protests are planned in several cities nationwide today against insurance company efforts to block health care reform. Insurance companies argue that they perform a necessary service and have a free speech right to lobby against reform legislation.

The Families USA study is at: www.familiesusa.org.

Doug Ramsey, Public News Service - AZ