There are many sources of information about what is happening with employer-sponsored health benefits and they can each give a unique perspective. ADP Research Institute, a unit of the large payroll processor, issues an Annual Health Benefit Report which looks at trends for large companies. (ADP Report) The 2014 version focuses on companies, largely self-insured, with over 1000 employees. Among this group, about 90% of employees were eligible for health benefits and about 68% of this eligible number actually participated in the health plan. While many who didn’t participate may have had coverage on a spouse’s or another plan, others may just feel they don’t need to incur the expense. It will be interesting to see if this changes as a result of the individual mandate. For workers over 50, the uptake rate has increased slightly to 73% of those eligible participating in the health plan; while among employees under 30, that rate has declined by over 7% since 2010 to just over 50% in 2014, which may reflect the ability to stay on a parent’s plan up to age 26. Married and unmarried employees are roughly equally likely to be eligible and participate. While men and women are equally likely to be eligible, women are about 5 percentage points less likely to participate. The youngest workers are the least likely to be eligible, but are still eligible at an 85% rate.
Health plan premiums have increased by 15% from an average of $756 monthly in 2010 to an average $870 in 2014, with the largest increase coming for workers over 50. Most of the increase, however, occurred between 2010 and 2011, at 6.9% while in 2014 it was only 1.7%. In 2014 employers contributed 77% of the cost for individual coverage and 74% of coverage for persons with dependents, with a slight decrease in this percent in every year since 2010. Single coverage comes in at a monthly average of $472 in 2014, while coverage for three or more dependents carries a steep price of over $1400 monthly. Declines in employer contribution percentage occurred for all types of coverage and premiums increased across all age groups. Among 20 states, New Jersey, New York, Texas and Massachusetts had the highest premiums, while Georgia Ohio, Colorado, and Virginia had the lowest, but Texas, Illinois, California and North Carolina experienced the most rapid growth rates and New Jersey had the slowest. Unfortunately, health care costs tend to eat up more of the income of lower-wage workers. For those under $20,000 annually, health costs were 9.4% of salary, while for those with annual salaries over $100,000; it was around 3%.