Premiums take bigger slice of Mississippi earnings

Health insurance premiums are rising faster than workers’ wages, and Mississippians are bearing an even bigger burden than much of the country.
A report from Families USA, a national consumer health care advocacy group, said that nationwide, family coverage premiums rose 93 percent over the past decade while median income rose 19 percent.
But in Mississippi, premiums rose nearly 102 percent while median earnings grew less than 14 percent.
So on average, insurance premiums nationwide rose about 4.9 times faster than earnings. In Mississippi, premiums rose 7.5 times faster than income.
Only two states had a higher ratio than Mississippi: Michigan (12.9) and Indiana (7.8).
Mississippi’s neighbors Alabama (4 times), Arkansas (5.8), Lousiana (2.7) and Tennessee (6.3) posted lower premium-to-income ratios.
One reason the Magnolia State’s ratio is higher is because it has traditionally been one of the poorest states in the nation and income has lagged behind the rest of the country.
Thus, growth in premiums makes health care even more costly in Mississippi.

Reason for the increase
Families USA says premiums are going up for several reasons, including the rising cost and increased use of health care, a lack of oversight in the health insurance marketplace and a cost shift of the uninsured to the insured.
“What we’re seeing, too, is that premiums are bringing thinner coverage, which means higher co-pays, higher deductibles and fewer benefits,” said Ron Pollack, executive director of Families USA, which bills itself as a nonprofit, nonpartisan health care advocacy organization.
And in Mississippi, “workers are paying disproportionately more” while getting less health coverage, Pollack said.
“Rising health care costs threaten the financial well-being of families in Mississippi and across the nation,” Pollack said. “If health care reform does not happen soon, more and more families will be priced out of the health coverage they used to take for granted.”
Findings from the Families USA report include:
- For family health coverage provided through the workplace in Mississippi, the average annual health insurance premium (employer and worker share of premiums combined) in the 2000-2009 period rose from $5,983 to $12,079 – an increase of $6,096, or 101.9 percent.
- Between 2000 and 2009, the median earnings of Mississippi’s workers rose from $20,439 to $23,219 – an increase of $2,780, or 13.6 percent.
- For family health coverage in Mississippi, the employer’s portion of annual premiums in the 2000-2009 period rose from $4,427 to $8,407 – an increase of $3,979 or 89.9 percent.
- For family health coverage, the worker’s portion of annual premiums rose from $1,556 to $3,672 – an increase of $2,116, or 136.1 percent.
- For individual health coverage, the employer’s portion of annual premiums rose from $2,056 to $3,586 – an increase of $1,530, or 74.4 percent.
- For individual health coverage, the worker’s portion of annual premiums rose from $439 to $798 – an increase of $359, or 81.7 percent.
Pollack said that businesses will find it more difficult to stay competitive and families will continue to find less affordable health care coverage unless health care reform is enacted this year.
He said his group is pleased by the movement of health care legislation in Washington so far.
“We’re much further along than ever before,” he said.
Pollack said Families USA supports the government-run public option insurance program, saying that “it does improve choices for people and does improve competition.”
However, he noted that he also supports the idea of exchanges to foster competition. He also said that tort reform was likely to find its way in some form or fashion into health care reform.
Families USA says the estimates in its reports are based on data from U.S. government sources, including the Department of Health and Human Services and the Census Bureau.

Contact Dennis Seid at (662) 678-1578 or dennis.seid@djournal.com.

Dennis Seid/NEMS Daily Journal