Health Insurance Costs

One in six Tennesseans goes uninsured, because they simply can't afford the cost.

And statistics just released by a consumer health organization indicate it's a problem that could cause even more Tennesseans their health.

Medical Reporter Jessa Goddard explains.

Paying the cost of your health insurance might make you feel sick.

And if it seems like the cost just keeps going up, you're not imagining things.

Health care premiums are at a premium in Tennessee, rising more than eight times faster than wages.

In Tennessee, from 2000 to 2006, working families paid the price for health insurance.

Premiums for families rose by nearly 99 percent, while income rose just 12 percent.

Tennessee had the fourth-largest premium growth in the country.

Dr. Dennis Freeman, CEO of Cherokee Health Systems says, "We have high rates of smoking, we have higher rates of obesity than most states. And we may have a more sedentary population than most states."

Freeman says medical costs are going up... Doctors and hospitals pass that cost onto insurance companies, which pass it on to employers, which in turn, pass it on to you.

But that cost has affected Tennessee workers and employers disproportionately.

An employer's portion of annual premiums for family health coverage increased 123 percent, while employer contributions increased 90 percent.

"And everyday we have people come in who have postponed care because they knew they couldn't afford it."

In response to the report, Cariten Healthcare CFO Jeff Collake released this statement:

"While the Families USA report notes a 98.7 percent increase in family premiums during the past six years, Cariten has seen only a 62 percent increase in the past six years."

The company credits disease management and wellness programs for keeping family premiums below the national average.

As health care costs continue to rise, more employers are either reducing coverage or eliminating it altogether.

The current prescription for a problem without a cure.

The Families USA report is part of a state-by-state analysis that looks at the impact of changes employer-based health insurance premiums.

It's based on data from the U.S. Census Bureau and the Departments of Labor and Health and Human Services.

The report doesn't include the 170 thousand people cut from Tenncare last year.