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Middle Class Bearing Brunt Of High Health Insurance Costs

Trying economic times have made it difficult for many Americans to afford insurance and many employers to offer it, but according to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation it is the middle class that is having the most trouble affording health insurance, and is thus becoming uninsured at the highest rates across all income groups. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation report Barely Hanging On: Middle-Class and Uninsured found that 13 million middle-income earners were uninsured in 2008, an increase of about 2 million people from 2000.

Middle-income Americans typically do not qualify for government insurance programs and have long depended on employer-sponsored insurance for health coverage. The RWJF report shows that 3 million fewer middle-income earners obtained health insurance from their employer in 2008 than in 2000. Only 66 percent of people in middle-income households (families earning roughly $45,000 to $85,000) now receive insurance through their employer, a seven percent decrease from 2000. However, only about half of this decline in employer-sponsored coverage for middle-income Americans from 2000 to 2008 was offset by government insurance programs.

The RWJF report was prepared by the State Health Access Data Assistance Center (SHADAC) at the University of Minnesota. Researchers averaged data from the U.S. Census Bureau from 1999/2000 and 2007/2008 and data from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

The report found that while the period from 2000 to 2008 saw a 2.5 percent decrease in median household income (from $52,544 to $51,233) across the United States, health insurance premiums and employee contributions to health insurance costs increased significantly. For employees with employer-sponsored insurance, those with single coverage saw premium increases of 43 percent to $4,386, while those with family coverage had premium increases of 56 percent to $12,298. In addition, contributions by employees with employer-sponsored insurance for health care coverage rose by 65 percent to $882 for those with single coverage, and by 81 percent to $3,394 for those with family coverage.

Read the full report here.

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