Insurance Premiums Continue Upward Rise in 2009, New Study Finds
The average family premium for employer-sponsored health insurance increased by 5% in 2009, according to a survey released Tuesday by the Kaiser Family Foundation and the Health Research and Educational Trust, the San Francisco Chronicle reports.
The average annual premium for family health coverage is now $13,375, according to the report, and the average cost hit $4,824 for an individual. Since 1999, premiums have increased by 131%, far outpacing rises in wages and inflation, which have increased by 38% and by 28%, respectively (Colliver, San Francisco Chronicle, 9/16).
The survey of 2,054 public and private U.S. employers with three or more workers was conducted between January and May (Galewitz/Villegas, Kaiser Health News, 9/15). It found that 60% of all employers surveyed offered health benefits in 2009, down from 66% in 1999, and that 46% of companies with three to nine employees offered benefits, down from 56% 10 years ago (Murphy, AP/Chicago Tribune, 9/15).
Of the employers offering coverage, 21% said that they had reduced benefits this year or asked employees to pay additional costs, while 15% said they had increased employee premium contributions (Heavey, Reuters, 9/15).
Forty-one percent said that next year, they are "somewhat" or "very" likely to increase employee premium contributions. Nine percent said that they plan to tighten eligibility requirements for health coverage (Hilzenrath, Washington Post, 9/16).
Eight percent said that they were "somewhat" or "very likely" to drop coverage entirely (San Francisco Chronicle, 9/16).
Thirty-nine percent said that workers will have increased out-of-pocket costs for physician visits, and 37% said that workers will have to pay more for prescription drugs (Reuters, 9/15).
The survey found that since 1999, employee contributions to health care costs have increased by 128% (San Francisco Chronicle, 9/16).
Employers now are picking up about 74% of the cost for family coverage and about 84% for single coverage (AP/Chicago Tribune, 9/15). Workers on average pay $3,515 a year for family coverage, up from $1,543 in 1999, and $779 for single coverage, up from $318 in 1999 (Kaiser Health News, 9/15).
While the cost of premiums rose by 5% for family coverage, premiums for individual coverage remained relatively unchanged from previous years, which experts attribute in part to the increase in high-deductible plans.
The study found that the percentage of workers enrolled in a single-coverage plan with a deductible of at least $1,000 a year increased to 22% in 2009, up from 18% in 2008. It also found that in companies with fewer than 200 workers, about 40% of workers are enrolled in such plans, up from 35% in 2008 and 16% in 2006 (AP/Chicago Tribune, 9/15).
Continued Increased Projected
According to the survey, if the price of family premiums continues to increase at a rate of 6.1% -- the average growth rate over the past five years -- premiums will exceed $24,000 a year by 2019 (San Francisco Chronicle, 9/16).
A separate study conducted by the Business Roundtable also released Tuesday found that cost for coverage for each worker will likely increase by 166% over the next 10 years to $28,530 per employee (Washington Post, 9/16).
Kaiser Family Foundation President and CEO Drew Altman said that an 8.7% average increase over the next 10 years is "very plausible," which would mean family premiums would reach $30,000 by 2019 (Burling, Philadelphia Inquirer, 9/16). Altman said, "That was a pretty shocking number," which "underscores the urgency of reaching a stronger consensus about how we're going to tackle the problem of health care costs" (AP/Chicago Tribune, 9/15).
Antonio Perez, CEO of Eastman Kodak and a leader of the Business Roundtable, said, "Maintaining the status quo is simply not an option" (Washington Post, 9/16). He told reporters, "The cost increases are so large that the employer-based system that we have today will be at serious risk" (Reuters, 9/15).
Robert Zirkelbach, a spokesperson for America's Health Insurance Plans, said that premiums are directly related to the cost of medical care and that "[i]n order to make health care coverage more affordable for families and small businesses, policymakers need to address the underlying cost drivers" (AP/Chicago Tribune, 9/15).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.