Thousands of people rallied Thursday in Washington, D.C. for "affordable and comprehensive" health care to the slogan of: "Health Care 2009, We Can't Wait!" The rally featured testimony in support of health care reform from a wide a range of people, including health care providers and uninsured Americans. Thursday's rally was organized by Health Care for America Now, a coalition of more than 1,000 health care groups advocating for public health insurance. HCAN has been mounting a public lobbying campaign in support the president's planMeanwhile, elsewhere in Washington, President Obama's health care reform plan continues to encounter resistance from conservatives opposing a "public option," but health care reform advocates are hoping that public pressure in support of Obama's plan will sway the debate taking place in Congress. According to the latest New York Times/CBS poll, a majority of Americans -- some 72 percent -- strongly support a government-run public health insurance plan. According to the Times, the poll found that most Americans would be willing to pay higher taxes so everyone could have health insurance and that the government could do a better job of holding down health-care costs than the private sector.

This week more studies are coming out showing that insurance premiums and out-of-pocket medical costs are taking a huge toll on struggling families. A new report on heath care affordability by Health Care for America Now and the Institute for America's Future found that in the last nine years, the cost of health insurance has risen 120 percent while wages grew only 29 percent, making health care and health insurance increasingly unaffordable for a growing portion of the U.S. population.

As Facing South reported yesterday, health insurance premiums have skyrocketed, due in part to near-monopolies in the private insurance market. The new study on affordabilty predicts that at the current rising costs of health insurance some 52 million Americans will be uninsured next year.

Some other findings from the report:
  • The lack of health insurance coverage causes 22,000 deaths each year in the U.S. People without health insurance are more likely to delay medical care, to get less care and to die when they get sick.
  • Among the uninsured, 80 percent are employed. Total health insurance premium contributions and cash outlays for an average family of four climbed 7.4 percent this year to $16,771.
  • The average combined cost of health insurance premiums paid by employers and workers climbed to $12,680 for family coverage in 2008.
  • The number of Americans in families with problems paying medical bills in 2007 climbed to 57 million, or one in five, up from one in seven in 2003.
  • Since 2004, employees have seen their cash outlays for health insurance co-payments and deductibles climb by 40 percent. The monetary value of employer-based health benefits declined from 2004 to 2007 as American families were required to spend more of their own money.
  • Health insurers have resorted to saving money by limiting benefits, using maneuvers such as imposing sharply higher co-payments on expensive drugs needed to treat life-saving diseases.
  • In bankruptcy courts, 62 percent of filers said medical bills contributed to their debts in 2007.
  • About 45 percent of Americans say they are "very" worried about having to spend more on health insurance premiums and medical costs.
Health insurance premiums for Southern working families have skyrocketed (growth in percentage from 2000-2007):
Alabama -  79
Arkansas - 66
Florida - 72
Georgia - 73
Kentucky - 48
Louisiana - 75
Mississippi - 73
North Carolina - 75
South Carolina - 76
Tennessee - 62
Texas - 87
Virginia - 83
West Virginia - 75