Premiums rise faster than inflation, wages
Premiums for health insurance grew faster this year than general inflation and the rate of most workers’ pay raises.
Premiums for employer-sponsored health insurance rose to $13,375 annually for family coverage – with employees paying $3,515 on average and employers paying $9,860.
The findings come from the benchmark study about employer health benefits, released by the Kaiser Family Foundation and the Health Research and Educational Trust.
The rate of increase was 5 percent from last year, higher than inflation, which fell 0.7 percent. Workers’ wages went up 3.1 percent.
Since 1999, premiums have risen 131 percent, far more rapidly than wages and inflation. For the past few years the annual rise in premiums has been more moderate than double-digit growth experienced earlier this decade.
The survey also found that 60 percent of firms offer health benefits to some or all of their workers this year. As in the past, the smaller the firm, the less likely it is to offer benefits – with fewer than half the smallest employers offering benefits.
Firms decreased the scope of benefits or increased cost sharing because of the lackluster economy, and 15 percent say they increased the workers’ share of the premium.
Other findings from the survey include:
- Drug benefits. The vast majority of covered workers face a three- or four-tier system to determine their cost-sharing for drugs. For workers in such plans, the average co-payments this year are $10 for first-tier drugs, $27 for second-tier drugs, and $46 for third-tier drugs. Co-payments for fourth-tier drugs, which may include costly biological agents and lifestyle drugs, averaged $85.
- Office visits. Among covered workers with a co-payment for in-network physician office visits, the average co-payment is $20 for primary care and $28 for specialty physicians – up slightly from the 2008 averages.
- Wellness benefits. More than half (58 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, 16 percent give their employees the option of completing a health risk assessment to help employees identify potential health risks. Within this group, 11 percent 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.
- Onsite health clinics. Among very large firms (at least 1,000 workers), 20 percent report that they have an on-site health clinic for employees at one or more locations. Of those firms with an on-site health clinic, 79 percent reported that employees can receive treatment for non-work related illness at the clinic.
- Retiree benefits. This year, 29 percent of large firms (200 or more workers) that offer health coverage also offer retiree health benefits, similar to the 31 percent.