As debate is renewed about health care reform, a study finds health insurance costs have bounded in Iowa and nationwide since the mid-1990s, when major reforms were last considered. John Lumpkin, senior vice president of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, says Iowa’s seen little progress in getting more people coverage, while health care cost increases far outpaced our salaries.

"What we’re finding in Iowa is that while the number of uninsured hasn’t increased — and mind you, these numbers are from 2007, before the economic downturn — but what we’re seeing is a dramatic increase in the cost, especially compared to people’s wages," Lumpkin says.

"As the costs increase, more and more Iowans are going to be forced to make a choice between paying for health insurance and paying for food." He says the cost of paying for one year of health insurance has bounded year after year for more than a decade.

"In Iowa, we’ve seen a significant increase since 1996," Lumpkin says. "The costs have gone from $2500 in 1996 to $3900 in 2006. This represents a six-times faster increase in the cost of these than in the amount wages have gone up." He says Iowa’s very close to the national average in logging the price hikes — as insurance costs went up 59-percent in Iowa during that decade and 61-percent nationwide.

The study found U.S. workers’ insurance costs have risen nearly eight times faster than incomes. Still, Lumpkin says he’s optimistic our nation’s leaders will find a way to rectify the deteriorating situation. "Absolutely, I think there’s hope, Lumpkin says. "We’re having very serious conversations in Washington about health care reform and covering the uninsured. People who don’t have health insurance live sicker and die younger. We believe it’s time for congress to do something about it, to work with the White House and find a solution."

The New Jersey-based Robert Wood Johnson Foundation is the country’s largest philanthropic organization devoted exclusively to health and health care. For more information on the foundation’s study, visit: " ".