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Health insurance costs skyrocket in Tulsa, study shows [Tulsa World, Okla.]

By Wayne Greene, Tulsa World, Okla.
McClatchy-Tribune Information Services

Dec. 12-- The cost of employer-sponsored family health insurance in Tulsa rose 64 percent between 2003 and 2011, and the amount of those costs passed on to workers was up 75 percent, a study by The Commonwealth Fund shows.

Both numbers were higher than the national average and well above increases seen in Oklahoma City, and the study projects the numbers to continue rising. The study projects the premium cost of a Tulsa family's health insurance to more than $24,000 by 2020 unless current trends are slowed.

"Clearly these trends are unsustainable," said Karen Davis, president of The Commonwealth Fund, but she also said there is reason to expect the federal Affordable Care Act -- often called "Obamacare" -- to reverse years of rising health insurance costs.

Two key reforms of the law -- the creation of health insurance exchanges in every state to give consumers the power of economies of scale and legal limits on the amount of premium revenue that can go to administrative costs and profits -- are part of the equation that could reverse future insurance costs, she said in a Tuesday teleconference with reporters.

Oklahoma Insurance Commissioner John Doak, who was not part of the teleconference, offered a contradictory analysis: The federal health care law will drive up insurance costs.

"Unfortunately, thanks to Obamacare, the recent rate increases are only the beginning of the price hikes," Doak said in a prepared statement for the Tulsa World. "The mandates that kick in next year will continue to raise costs, especially for younger adults."

By 2014, health insurance rates could increase an additional 30 percent to 40 percent because of new premium taxes, underwriting reforms, reinsurance costs and benefits mandate increases, he said.

"This forecast is definitely a bad omen of what's to come with respect to affordable health insurance," Doak said.

The Commonwealth Fund study shows that the total premium cost of employer-supported family coverage in Tulsa was $14,673 in 2011 -- a 64 percent increase over 2003 levels. In Oklahoma City, the average family premium was $13,266, a 48 percent rise in the same period.

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The study also indicates that the portion of insurance costs being passed on to workers is rising quickly.

The out-of-pocket costs to a Tulsa family rose 75 percent in the eight-year period to an average of $4,701, according to the report. In Oklahoma City, the increase was 39 percent, to $4,146.

Nationally, the average family premium increase was 61 percent and the out-of-pocket increase for employees was 69 percent.

While not as sharp, the study also found that the cost of employer-provided insurance to individuals also rose substantially in the period.

In Tulsa, the eight-year increase was 36 percent to $4,894 with an out-of-pocket increase of 57 percent to $1,117.

Wayne Greene 918-581-8308

wayne.greene@tulsaworld.com

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(c)2012 Tulsa World (Tulsa, Okla.)

Visit Tulsa World (Tulsa, Okla.) at www.tulsaworld.com

Distributed by MCT Information Services

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