The latest annual Kaiser Foundation survey of employer health benefits is out, as usual chock full of interesting statistics and data. (Kaiser Report) Perhaps the item most picked up in the popular press was the continuing rapid overall rise of costs, which was linked to the promises made about how the Reform Act would reduce premiums immediately, which has not happened, and the report makes clear that those parts of the reform that have been implemented are directly responsible for some the this year’s cost increase. The survey is conducted across all industries and all firm sizes. This year’s sample covered 2,088 companies, about three quarters of which had participated in an earlier Kaiser survey.
The average premium for single coverage in 2011 was $5,429 per year and for families it is $15,073. This was an 8% and 9% increase in single and family coverage costs for 2010. For comparison, the 2009 to 2010 increase was only 3% for family coverage. Premiums are lower in small firms for family coverage, probably because of less comprehensive benefits. Premiums are highest in the Northeast and lowest in the South. Premiums for high-deductible plans are lower, at $4,793 for single and $13,704 for family. The percent of all firms offering health benefits dropped from 69% in 2010 to 60% in 2011. This is all due to reductions at small firms, as 99% of companies with over 200 employees continue to offer health benefits while only 59% of small firms do. Cost is the primary reason for not offering health benefits. Companies with more low-pay workers are more likely to not offer health coverage.
Overall, 58% of workers have employment-based health insurance, 65% through their own employer. Often part-time and temporary workers are not eligible for health benefits; about 21% of employees are not eligible, with low-wage employees less likely to be eligible. About 81% of eligible employees enroll for coverage when it is available. Most employees still face a waiting period before coverage begins. Most employers, 84%, only offer one-type of plan and, as would be expected, very large firms are most likely to offer multiple choices. Although few employers offer more than one plan, over 50% of employees have access to a choice of plan type. In a reflection of their growth in popularity, 40% of workers have a choice of a high-deductible plan. In total, 55% of workers are in PPOs, 17% in HMOs and 17% in high-deductible plans. High-deductible plans continue to grow rapidly, doubling in enrollment since 2009.