Report says N.H. families pay highest health premiums
New Hampshire families pay the highest premiums in the country for their private employer-sponsored health coverage, but pay less than the national average for other costs incurred by the uninsured. That’s according to a report by Families USA, a Washington, D.C.-based non-profit organization whose mission is achieving universal health insurance. Families USA said the report is “the first time the dollar impact on private health insurance premiums” for the care of uninsured people has been measured. The study, “Paying a Premium: The Added Cost of Care for the Uninsured,” looked at a number of key factors, including health insurance premiums paid by families and individuals who have insurance through their employers, as well as increases in those premiums due to the cost of health care for the uninsured. According to the report, the average premium for American families in 2005 is $922 higher because they help cover the $43 billion in health-care costs incurred by uninsured patients. The study — written by Kathleen Stoll, director of health policy for Families USA with data analysis provided by Kenneth Thorpe, an Emory University professor and former deputy assistant secretary for health policy in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services - shows that New Hampshire families are paying an average of $13,323 in premiums in 2005, higher than any other state in the country. In 2010, that number will explode to $22,722 if insurance rates remain the same, according to the report. Said another way, for every $17 Granite State families pay for their insurance, $1 goes to the care of the uninsured. Nationally, $1 in every $12 pays for the uninsured. So why are New Hampshire’s rates so high? “Our database doesn’t really explain the whys, but more of just the what,” said Stoll. She said the premium figures came from federal databases. “A number of things come into play for setting premium rates,” explained Stoll, “How competitive the insurance market in the state is, how regulated it is, how much is paid for by public programs, how aggressively health-care providers can negotiate with insurers — even how aggressive collections practices are in the state can affect the premium.” New Hampshire did fare surprisingly well in other areas examined by the report. The state ranks in the middle for net increases in premiums over last year due to health-care costs for the uninsured. Families in the Granite State paid about $805 more for their insurance in 2005 than last year. The highest increases were seen in New Mexico ($1,875), West Virginia ($1,796) and Oklahoma ($1,781). Rhode Island families’ premiums rose the least — just $50. Premiums paid by New Hampshire individuals are $4,170, which rank just above the national average of $4,065. Those numbers also trend similarly in 2010. The cost of care not paid for by New Hampshire’s uninsured themselves is expected to be about $134 million in 2005 and could grow to $188 million in 2010. In several states, that figure was in the billions of dollars, with California leading the nation at $5.8 billion, and ballooning to $8 billion in 2010. Vermont’s costs were the country’s lowest, at just under $54 million. According to the study, the number of uninsured in New Hampshire for 2005 is 148,000, or about 11.4 percent of the state’s total population — the second-lowest in the nation, just behind Vermont’s 11.2 percent. If payment methodologies and programs remain the same, by 2010 New Hampshire’s uninsured population will rise to 12.4 percent, still below the expected national average of 15.5 percent. Again, California had the highest number of uninsured — nearly 8 million, or almost 22 percent of its population. Vermont tied with Wyoming for the least uninsured at 70,000, but Wyoming’s lower total state population gave it a greater percentage per capita at 13.9 percent. To view a copy of the full report and the data analysis methodologies used, visit familiesusa.org.