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Indiana No. 3 in premium surge

November 18, 2009

Hoosiers have more reasons than most Americans to support health care reform as action gets started in the Senate, perhaps as early as this week.

Health insurance premium increases in Indiana have risen 136 percent in the last decade, third-highest among all states.

It’s also three times higher than Hoosier wage increases, which have run a bit below average in the last 10 years. That means Indiana residents are losing more ground to rising health care costs than peers across the country.

Those numbers are from government data compiled by the White House in September. Only Alaska and Oregon have seen larger run-ups in health insurance pricing.

Despite that severe pain, both of Indiana’s senators have voiced significant reservations about health care reform. Republican Richard Lugar doesn’t support it at all. And Democrat Evan Bayh says he’s concerned about adding to the deficit.

So what gives?

Reports keep coming out that suggest the bills are unlikely to meet President Obama’s goal of reducing the cost of health care, even though they will extend health insurance coverage to millions more Americans. For one example, see economist Robert Samuelson’s take in Newsweek here.

And even left-leaning health insurance consultant Richard Eskow, blogging on Huffington Post, called the recently passed House bill “deeply flawed.” If passed into law unchanged, he predicts higher health insurance premiums for the middle class, which he predicts could alienate them from the Democratic Party. Read Eskow's blog here.

Also, industries with a major presence in Indiana—medical devices, pharmaceuticals, health insurers—have turned against health reform or at least major provisions of it. That would give any politician pause.

One other complicating factor might be the lack of polling data from Indiana. IUPUI political polling expert Brian Vargus said he knows of only one Indiana-specific survey taken about health care reform.

That one, from late October, showed Hoosiers supporting reform: 52 percent to 42 percent. But it was commissioned by pro-reform groups in an attempt to pressure Bayh, a Democrat, to vote for reform. So consider the source.

For Lugar, constituent comments have been overwhelmingly opposed to the health care bills, running at greater than 10 comments against for every comment in support. Bayh’s office did not provide a similar ratio.

Of course, constituents can repeatedly make calls and send letters, exaggerating the true prevalence of their opinion, Vargus noted.

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