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June 24, 2007

Anyone who's lost control of a speeding car knows the feeling: The world in front of the windshield suddenly looks like a movie running in slow motion … the disorientation, the loss of control, the seeming eternity until it all stops.

Such is the condition of the American system of health insurance. The vehicle began skidding out of control sometime in the past decade, but for many Americans that realization is just dawning. No one is predicting disintegration tomorrow, but without action a crack-up is all but inevitable. Look at the skid marks:

--The number of Americans without health insurance is growing … 47 million at last count, or 16 percent of the population. Of that total, 2.5 million live in New York. In Erie and Niagara counties, about 109,000 people … 10 percent of the population … lack health insurance.

--The cost of health insurance is rising two to three times faster than inflation.

--The proportion of companies offering health insurance is shrinking, and those who do offer it are restricting benefits and raising employees' costs through higher premiums and higher deductibles or co-pays.

--The number of Americans facing financial disaster because of health care costs … far and away the No. 1 cause of personal bankruptcy in the United States … is rising.

--Americans pay more for health care than citizens of any other nation, obtaining results that often are worse than those in countries that spend significantly less. And costs are expected to double to $4.1 trillion in 10 years, government economists say.

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Posted by healthinsurance at June 24, 2007 04:40 PM