Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Total 2010 Health benefit costs up 3% but employee costs up 14%

Some striking trends in Employer Health Benefits were highlighted in the Kaiser Family Founding and Health Research Education Trust survey including:
  • Significant increase in employee share of family health covereage costs
  • Significant increase in PPO plans (combined with the virutual elimination of conventional health insurance coverage)
  • Significant increase in the number of workers covered by high-deductible plans 
Exceprts from the news release follow:

Workers on average are paying nearly $4,000 this year toward the cost of family health coverage - an increase of 14 percent, or $482, above what they paid last year.

The jump occurred even though the total premiums for family coverage, including what employers themselves contribute, rose a modest 3 percent to $13,770 on average in 2010. In contrast, the amount employers contribute for family coverage did not increase.

Preferred Provider Organizations (PPOs) continue to dominate the employer market, enrolling 58 percent of covered workers. Average PPO family premiums topped $14,000 annually in 2010.

Since 2005, workers’ contributions to premiums have gone up 47 percent, while overall premiums rose 27 percent, wages increased 18 percent, and inflation rose 12 percent.

Many employers are also raising the annual deductibles workers must pay before their health plans begin to share most health care costs. A total of 27 percent of covered workers now face annual deductibles of at least $1,000, up from 22 percent in 2009. Among small firms (3-199 workers), 46 percent face such deductibles.

30 percent of employers say they reduced the scope of health benefits or increased cost sharing, and 23 percent report increasing the amount employees pay for coverage.

Among other plan types, only consumer-driven plans (which are high-deductible plans that also include a tax-preferred savings options such as a Health Savings Account or Health Reimbursement Arrangement) saw growth in their market share. Such plans now enroll 13 percent of covered workers, up from 8 percent last year.

Other findings include:

Single coverage. The survey also tracks the premiums for worker-only health benefits, which increased 5 percent in 2010 to reach $5,049 annually. Workers on average are paying $899 annually for single coverage, up from $779 in 2009. Forty-seven percent of covered workers are in single coverage plans.

Physician office visits. Among covered workers with a copayment for in-network physician office visits, the average copayment increased a small but statistically significant amount from 2009 to 2010 -- from $20 to $22 for primary care and from $28 to $31 for specialty care.

Mental health benefits. In response to the 2008 Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act, 31 percent of firms with more than 50 workers made changes to the mental health benefits they offer. Most of this group eliminated limits on coverage to comply with the law, though a small share (5 percent of those making changes) dropped mental health coverage altogether.

Wellness benefits. About three-fourths (74 percent) of employers offering health benefits offer at least one of the following wellness programs: weight loss program, gym membership discounts or on-site exercise facilities, smoking cessation program, personal health coaching, classes in nutrition or healthy living, web-based resources for healthy living, or a wellness newsletter.

Health risk assessments. Among firms offering coverage, 11 percent give their employees the option of completing a health risk assessment to help employees identify potential health risks. Within this group, 22 percent -- or a relatively small two percent of all employers -- offer financial incentives such as lowering the worker’s share of premiums or offering merchandise, gift cards, travel, or cash to their workers. Large firms are more likely than small firms both to offer assessments and to offer financial incentives.

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