SALT LAKE CITY — Utahns are losing their workplace-based insurance at a faster rate than most Americans, and those who manage to keep it are paying a lot more and getting markedly less, a new state-by-state report released Wednesday shows.
Looking at data between 2000 and 2008 and slicing it 10 different ways, the nonpartisan Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's "Barely Hanging On: Middle-Class and Uninsured" statistically verifies what most working Americans already know: Health care insurance premiums are eating away household and employer incomes, and it's only going to get worse.
While Utah's median income dipped slightly to $59,062 from $59,479 during that eight-year period, total annual health insurance premiums ballooned by $4,118 per working Utah family — from $7,655 in 2000 to $11,783 in 2008. That year is the most recent that complete data are available to the State Health Access Data Assistance Center at the University of Minnesota, which the foundation commissioned to compile the report.
The total number of uninsured in the middle-class averaged 71,000 in 2000 and 92,000 in 2008, according to the report. About 26 percent of employees in Utah whose companies offered insurance were deemed ineligible. At the same time, total costs for a family insurance policy increased 54 percent since 2000 — to $11,783 in 2008.
Even though employers still pay most of the tab for their workers' health insurance, the amount employees in Utah pay for a family premium increased 57 percent from 2000 to 2008. Over the same period, median income in the state declined 0.7 percent.
"For middle-class families, changes in the cost of insurance far outweigh changes in income," said Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, foundation president and chief executive. "That means a bigger piece of the household budget must go to insurance, or families have to go without coverage, delay needed care and face bankruptcy if anyone in the family gets seriously ill."
Just 66 percent of Utah families earning roughly $45,000 to $85,000 are now insured through their employer — a drop of 7 percent from 2000 to 2008. There were 23 percent of employees in 2008 statewide who had an offer of insurance but didn't sign up.
The report is being released as part of "Cover the Uninsured Week," a foundation-organized campaign now in its eighth year.