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KBIA’s Health & Wealth Desk covers the economy and health of rural and underserved communities in Missouri and beyond. The team produces a weekly radio segment, as well as in-depth features and regular blog posts. The reporting desk is funded by a grant from the University of Missouri, and the Missouri Foundation for Health.Contact the Health & Wealth desk.

Insurance Premiums Hit Record High

Health care premiums are at a record high – up nine percent since last year. A survey released Tuesday shows the average family is now paying over 15 thousand dollars a year on health care premiums. KBIA’s Jacob Fenston reports the rising costs are affecting Missourians as well.

Fifteen thousand dollars a year is more than double what the average family was paying for health insurance a decade ago. This year’s increase in premiums was one of the largest since the Kaiser Family Foundation began the yearly survey in 1999, says the group’s president, Drew Altman.

“I think what’s especially notable this time, is that it comes when wages have been falling in real terms, when wages are not really keeping up with inflation.”

At the same time premiums rose by 9 percent, wages rose by just 2 percent – and that measly gain was wiped out by 3 percent inflation.

In Missouri, a relatively high percentage of employers provide health insurance. But Ryan Barker, with the Missouri Foundation for Health, says high costs are changing that.

“That percentage of Missourians with employer insurance has dropped year after year, and so there’s just been this slow decline. It’s been a little bit slower than other states, but I think we’ll continue to see that as health insurance premiums continue to go up.”

Rather than dropping health care benefits entirely, many employers are changing the type of coverage. This year, nearly one third of covered workers in the U.S. had high-deductible plans, with less access to preventative care. This is changing the very nature of health insurance, says Drew Altman:

“This is the quiet revolution going on in health insurance.”

The percentage of workers with high deductible plans has more than tripled in the past five years.