Workers Paying 14% More For Family Health Coverage This Year

The US worker is paying an average of $482 extra this year for family health coverage, 14% more than last year, even though total premiums - including what employers contribute - only rose 3% to an average of $13,770 in 2010, according to a survey released by the Kaiser Family Foundation and the Health Research & Educational Trust. The 2010 Employer Health Benefits Survey revealed that workers are paying almost $4,000 this year for family health coverage.
  The total amount of employers' contributions for family coverage remains unchanged, the report reveals.
  PPOs (Preferred Provider Organizations) enrolled 58% of the covered workers, with average family premiums reaching $14,000 per year in 2010.
  Over the last five years workers' contributions to premiums have risen 47%, while overall premiums have only gone up 27%, compared to average wage increases of 18% and a 12% total inflation.
  A significant number of employers have also raised the annual deductibles employees have to pay themselves before their health plans kick in and start paying towards most health care costs. 27% of employees with cover now face deductibles of $1,000 or more, compared to 22% of workers a year ago. 46% of workers in companies employing between 3 and 199 people (smaller firms) are now facing deductibles of at least $1,000.
  Kaiser President and CEO Drew Altman, Ph.D., said:
With the economy struggling, businesses have been shifting more of the costs of health insurance to workers through premiums, deductibles and other cost-sharing. This may be helping to stem the rapid rise in premiums that we saw in the early 2000s, but it also means employer coverage is less comprehensive. From a consumer perspective, the cost of health insurance just keeps going up faster than wages.
Maulik Joshi, Dr.P.H., president of HRET and senior vice president for research at the American Hospital
Association, said:
High out-of-pocket expenses and premiums affect health care decisions for patients. If premiums and costs continue to be shifted to consumers, households will face difficult choices, like forgoing needed care, or reexamining how they can best care for their families.
The authors say the shift of the burden to workers is mainly due to the economic recession.

The authors write:
In response to the economic downturn, 30% of employers say they reduced the scope of health benefits or increased cost sharing, and 23% report increasing the amount employees pay for coverage.
  The percentage of companies offering health benefits this year increased significantly to 69%, from 60% in 2009, mainly because the offer rate among firms with 3 to 9 workers increased. As the majority of employees work for large companies, the shift among the smaller companies did not have a significant effect on the percentage of employees covered at their job or on the percentage of workers offered health benefits, the report informs.
  The authors say they are uncertain why there was a large increase in the offer rate. It is unlikely that many businesses started offering coverage this year, bearing in mind the current economic climate. Perhaps non-offering firms were more likely to fail during the last 12 months, "with the attrition of non-offering firms leading to a higher offer rate among surviving firms."

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