By Nancy-Ann de Parle - 09/22/09 09:29 PM EDT
Americans who are fortunate enough to have insurance have seen their premiums skyrocket. Last week, the Kaiser Family Foundation and Health Research and Educational Trust released a new study outlining the rise in employer-sponsored health insurance premiums. According to the study, the average cost of a family policy in 2009 increased to $13,375, nearly equivalent to the annual salary of a minimum-wage worker. Employees pay $3,515, while their employers pay $9,860. In the last 10 years, employer-sponsored health insurance premiums have increased by 131 percent. All the while, wages have only increased 38 percent and inflation has risen by 28 percent.
Sadly, the Americans who can manage to dig deeper into their pockets and pay for healthcare are the lucky ones. According to new data from the U.S. Census, the number of uninsured increased from 39.8 million in 2001 to 46.3 million in 2008. The vast majority of states have seen their uninsured population grow or remain unacceptably high from 2001 to 2008. While this new data is striking, it leaves out millions more Americans who were uninsured for less than a year, or who lost their insurance in the recession. The new data also shows that in nearly every state, private coverage is eroding. Fewer and fewer employers are offering insurance to their workers. Many simply can’t afford to.
We know that there are consequences for all Americans if we stick with the status quo. The Treasury Department reported that we can expect that about half of all Americans under 65 will lose their health coverage at some point over the next 10 years. Young Americans will be hit particularly hard. If you’re under the age of 21 today, you have a greater than 50 percent chance of being uninsured at some point.
The reports are clear. Healthcare costs are growing, more Americans are losing their insurance and if we keep doing the same thing, things will only get worse. That’s why President Barack Obama is committed to enacting health insurance reform and it’s why we are seeing incredible momentum and support for reform in Congress.
Four of five committees have passed health reform legislation and the Senate Finance Committee is working diligently on a bill. There are tremendous areas of agreement and we are closer to passing reform than ever before.
And we will succeed. The American people and their representatives in Congress know doing nothing will leave millions of Americans to pay higher premiums or go without care. Now, after decades of debate, we will make health insurance reform a reality.
De Parle is counselor to the president and director of the White House Office of Health Reform.