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New Survey Outlines Increase in Employee Health Contributions

The economic downturn is being reflected through an annual increase in the amount of money workers are paying for family health coverage, according to a new survey conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation and the Health Research and Educational Trust.  Specifically, the annual amount employees are contributing for this coverage has increased 14%, or $482 dollars above last year.

This increase is occurring despite the fact that total premiums for coverage have only risen 3% from last year.  Conversely, employer contributions show no increase, clearly reflecting a shift in how much employers vs. employees are paying for coverage.

This jump continues a trend that began in 2005; since then, employee contributions to premiums have risen 47%, while premiums on the whole increased 27%.  In contrast, wages have increased 18%, while inflation has climbed 12%.

In a press release, Kaiser President and CEO Drew Altman, Ph.D  surmises that because of economic difficulty, employers have been continually shifting health insurance expenses to workers through premiums and deductibles.  He adds, “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.”

The survey finds that 30% of employers reduced their benefits package or increased expense sharing; 23% reported increasing the amount employees must contribute to receive coverage.

Following are more health insurance statistics garnered from the survey:

*Worker-only (single coverage) benefits increased by 5% in 2010
*For those covered workers who pay a co-payment for doctor visits, there was a slight increase the co-payment fee:  from $20-$22 for primary care and from $28-$31 for specialty care
*Mental health care benefits on average increased.  Of firms with more than 50 employees, 31% dropped overage limits due to the 2008 Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act.
*Of employers offering wellness benefits, 74% offer one or more of the following wellness programs: gym membership, smoking cessation program, nutrition classes, online healthy living resources,  on-site exercise facilities, weight lost program, etc.

The current survey was conducted between January and May of 2010; for the research the Kaiser Family Foundation and HRET randomly selected 3,143 non-federal public and private firms with 3 or more employed workers.

Of the selected firms, 2,046 responded to the full survey; 1.097 responded to a single question regarding coverage.