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Mo. Health Premium Rise Outpaces Wages

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Graphic from horizon.unc.edu
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Health care costs fOR 1991, 2000, and projected for 2009. Data from Barron's, HCFA, Paine Webber.

By Steve Bell

Kansas City, MO – A group that promotes a national solution to the rising cost of health care has released a study that says the cost of health insurance in Missouri has increased at three times the pace of income increases over the past six years. Ron Pollack of Families USA says that's only half of the story.

Pollack:
Even though insurance premiums are rising so quickly, people are paying more in deductibles, in co-payments, and there are fewer benefits covered in their insurance plan. So this is a case of people paying more and more and getting less and less.

Pollack says increases in Missouri are slightly less than in most states, but premiums are likely to increase more due to cuts in state social services.

Pollack:
It's probably going get worse in Missouri than in the United states, because when people get cut off safety net programs and join the ranks of the uninsured, the costs of their care gets picked up by those people who have health insurance.

The study says nearly 700,000 Missourians are uninsured or underinsured.

Pollock favors a federal solution. He says Clinton administration proposal of a national health care system went too far, but the Medicare prescription plan passed this year doesn't go far enough because it didn't allow the government to negotiate drug prices (he says the VA got 40% lower prices by negotiating. He also says Senator Jim Talent's plan to let small businesses band together to negotiate health insurance premiums starts with a good idea, but then eliminates state regulation of insurance, leaving consumers vulnerable to inadequate coverage.

Stuart Campbell, president of Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Missouri said the answer is not more regulation - but more competition among providers and more cost-conscious consumers.

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