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Kaiser Health Insurance Survey

By September 14, 2010Commentary

A number of recent surveys and reports have examined expectations for health benefits costs in 2011 and a recent report looks at what actually happened in 2010.  About 160 million Americans get health insurance through their employer.  The costs of health insurance have risen at a healthy (or unhealthy) clip for many years.  The Kaiser Foundation conducts an annual survey or private and public employers to gather data about actual plan design, costs and cost-sharing for the year 2010.  A premium for a single employee has risen to $5,049 and for a family to $13,770.   (Health Affairs Article)

These increases were 5% and 3% respectively, but changes in benefit design limited the increases to less than they would be for the identical benefit package in the previous year.  Of particular note is the sharp jump in workers covered by high deductible plans, from 8%  in 2009 to 13% in 2010.  Because those plans have lower premiums–about 10% lower for both individual and family coverage, they bring the average premium down.  Interestingly, premiums are lower for family coverage in small firms than in large ones.  The cost of single coverage is roughly equal.

The share of premium covered by the employee continues to creep up, at about 19% for single coverage and 30% for family insurance.  This coupled with the change to more high-deductible plans, higher copayments and greater use of co-insurance means that workers’ health costs are rising more rapidly than those of the companies they work for.  Perhaps because of this, the number of firms offering health benefits actually increased to 69% in 2010 from 60% in 2009.  However, only 63% of workers at these companies actually enrolled in the coverage.  Some may have coverage through a spouse or other source, but many probably just can’t afford it.  Whether deserved or not, these facts help explain why the reform bill is so unpopular.

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