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Health Insurance Costs Outpace Wages

Study Shows Premiums Rise Faster Than Workers' Incomes

Strain on Family Budgets continued...

But Pollack says his group's study shows that workers are facing a "triple whammy." Overall premiums are rising, while workers' shares of those premiums are going up, too. At the same time, the added pressure on employers is forcing them to hold back on wages, he says.

Nearly half of the respondents in a poll released by the Kaiser Foundation earlier this week said they'd skipped some needed medical care because of cost. More than a third said they'd postponed needed treatment, and about a quarter said they'd divided pills, skipped doses, or skipped filling a prescription because of the price.

"People's budgets are being strained in multiple ways these days, and health care is no exception," says Mollyann Brodie, a vice president and director of public opinion and survey research at Kaiser.

The Families USA findings come less than two weeks before Election Day. Both Barack Obama, the Democratic candidate, and John McCain, the Republican candidate, have pegged health care reform as a top domestic priority.

McCain's health plan seeks to shift workers away from employer-sponsored coverage and instead give a tax credit. The credit -- $2,500 for individuals and $5,000 for families -- could be used to purchase coverage on the individual insurance market. McCain also wants to cut insurance regulations so that companies can more easily offer streamlined coverage across state lines.

Obama's plan requires insurance for all children. It also requires employers to either provide coverage for workers or pay into a fund for coverage. Obama includes tax breaks for some businesses to help cover those costs. He also wants to set minimum national standards for coverage and then let private insurance companies sell subsidized plans to business and individuals.

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