Survey: Employer-Based Insurance Premium Rose Slightly in 2013
Employer-based health insurance premiums increased by 4% for family coverage in 2013, while individual rates rose by 5%, according to a survey released Tuesday by the Kaiser Family Foundation and the Health Research & Educational Trust, the New York Times reports (Pollack, New York Times, 8/20).
The annual employer benefit survey of about 2,000 employers was conducted between January and May (Appleby, Kaiser Health News, 8/20). The survey found this is the second-consecutive year premium growth has remained relatively low, after premiums increased by 4% in 2012. Premiums grew by 9% in 2011.
Despite the modest growth rate, KFF President and CEO Drew Altman noted that employees still are paying more for health care because salary increases have not kept pace with rising health care costs over the past decade. The survey found that while family premiums increased by 4%, wages grew by just 1.8% and the general inflation was 1.1% in the last year (Kennedy, USA Today, 8/20).
Overall, the survey found employee premium contributions remained the same from 2012 to 2013. It showed premiums for families averaged $16,351, with workers paying about $4,565, or 29%, toward their premiums. Meanwhile, individual premiums averaged about $5,884, with workers contributing about $999, or 18% (Kaiser Health News, 8/20).
However, the survey found that more companies are offering employees high-deductible plans, which require participants to pay more out-of-pocket for certain procedures. Thirty-eight percent of all workers with individual policies have a deductible of at least $1,000, according to the survey (Murphy, AP/Miami Herald, 8/20). Among workers employed by companies with fewer than 200 employees, 58% have at least a $1,000 deductible and 31% have a deductible of at least $2,000.
Overall, the survey found that 78% of workers with employer-based coverage have a general deductible, up from 72% in 2012 (New York Times, 8/20). The average deductible for an individual health plan was $1,135, up from $1,079 in 2012 (Levey/Villeneuve, "Politics Now," Los Angeles Times, 8/20).
The number of firms offering health coverage to at least some of their employees in 2013 remained statistically unchanged from 2012. About 57% of firms are offering health benefits to their workers in 2013, compared with 61% in 2012. According to the Times, this suggests that the Affordable Care Act has not caused employers to drop employee benefits, forcing workers into the law's new health insurance exchanges (New York Times, 8/20). Specifically, the survey showed:
- 45% of the smallest companies offer worker health benefits, down from 55% in 2003;
- 93% of companies with more than 50 workers offer coverage, compared with 95% last year; and
- About 99% of employers with 200 or more workers offer coverage, about the same as last year (Kaiser Health News, 8/20).
The survey also found:
- 29% of employers with more than 5,000 workers reported an interest in enrolling workers in private insurance exchanges in which the employer contributes a set amount ("Politics Now," Los Angeles Times, 8/20);
- 59% of firms with fewer young workers offer health insurance, compared with 23% of firms with more young workers (Pittman, MedPage Today, 8/20); and
- 77% of companies offer at least one wellness program (Pugh, Kansas City Star, 8/20).
Observers generally said the survey results were "good news," but economists remain split on why health care costs have remained fairly stable, USA Today reports (USA Today, 8/20).
The survey noted that the slower premium increases appear to reflect slower growth of health care spending due to the poor economy. Researchers were unable to determine if the ACA was responsible for the slower premium increases (Kaiser Health News, 8/20).
Martin Gaynor -- a professor of economics and health policy at Carnegie Mellon University -- said, "My general sense is it's too early to take what's happening with health care spending, whether it's for good or bad, and assign it to the ACA" (New York Times, 8/20).
However, some employers in the survey said that ACA provisions -- such as a provision allowing children to remain on their parents' policies until age 26 -- are increasing costs (Kaiser Health News, 8/20).
Meanwhile, the Obama administration was quick to portray the survey as supporting the ACA. HHS spokesperson Joanne Peters said, "Since the Affordable Care Act became law, health care costs have been slowing and premiums are increasing by the lowest rates in years" ("Politics Now," Los Angeles Times, 8/20).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.