Underinsured America

A physician assistant of family medicine wears a stethoscope.

TEXT OF STORY

Doug Krizner: Most Americans rely on their employers for health care coverage, but costs are rising faster than inflation, and increasingly companies have started cutting back benefits. That means employees have to pay more out of pocket. Helen Palmer reports from the Health desk at WGBH.


Helen Palmer: A new survey from Consumer Reports finds that 16 percent of working-age Americans have no insurance and another 24 percent have to pay such a big chunk of their health costs. It's a problem.

Nancy Metcalfe: They were running up credit-card debts, they were dipping into their retirement savings.

Nancy Metcalfe, who wrote the report, says a quarter of the under-insured are in debt to doctors or hospitals, but the high health prices are good for the health insurers. They keep around 20 percent of each premium dollar for administration and profits.

Metcalfe: In 2006, the six biggest private health insurers in the United States took home about $11 billion in profits.

The insurance industry says it's being unfairly blamed. Susan Pisano of America's Health Insurance Plans:

Susan Pisano: What we pay for doctors and hospitals and prescription drugs and new technology, that that's what's driving health-care costs.

Pisano says they do everything they can to help members get the best value for their health-care dollar.

In Boston, I'm Helen Palmer for Marketplace.

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