Workers shouldering bigger health cost burden

Workers shouldering bigger health cost burden

health-care-cost-newEmployees are increasingly bearing the burden of higher employer-sponsored health plan costs, as employers revise plan designs to shift costs from the premiums that they pay to the deductibles paid by employees.

Overall, however, health plan costs appear to be better managed than in the past, with the exception of prescription drug costs.

These are among the conclusions of a study of employer health plan data out Tuesday by the Kaiser Family Foundation and the Health Research & Educational Trust.

“The so-called great slowdown in health care costs has been all but invisible to consumers because deductibles have been going up so much faster than their wages,” said Drew Altman, KFF’s CEO.

However, the overall trend toward more slowly increasing coverage costs will probably remain in place in the foreseeable future, he said.

“It’s predictable that we’ll begin to see sharper increases in premiums and health care spending in coming years, but highly unlikely that we’ll see a return to double-digit or even high single-digit increases like we’ve seen in the past,” Altman said.

The survey found that the average premium for single coverage rose to $6,251 and $17,545 for a family plan. Employers continue to pay the lion’s share of premiums, but by shifting costs to deductibles, they are limiting their exposure to price increases.

Among other highlights of the survey of 1,000 large and small employers:

  • Some employers said they had expanded insurance while a small percentage shifted jobs to part-time to avoid the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act’s requirement that they offer a plan.
  • The portion of premiums employees pay increased 83 percent since 2005, while the total cost of a policy went up 61 percent.
  • One-third of respondents from large firms said they offer employees financial incentives to take health-risk screening tests.
  • Cadillac tax consciousness has employers studying their plans and taking action: More than half with 200 or more workers have analyzed their plans to see if they would trigger the tax; 20 percent expect their most popular plan to trigger the “Cadillac tax” on high-value coverage that takes effect in 2018.
  • 13 percent made plans less generous to avoid the Cadillac tax. That often involves increasing deductibles — making employees bear more of the cost.