Survey: Health Care Premiums Soar for Many Employees

BY Jason Kane  September 27, 2011 at 12:05 PM EST

As the economy sputters and many firms struggle to keep their health benefits, the news officially became even bleaker on Tuesday: Premiums for employer-sponsored health coverage shot up 9 percent last year. That’s significantly more than the average increase in wages, according to a new survey from the Kaiser Family Foundation and the Health Research & Education Trust.

The typical premium for an American family now comes to $15,073 — with workers paying $4,129 of that amount and employers covering the rest. The average rate for an individual reached $5,429 annually, with workers paying $921 toward the coverage.

The premium hike this year — triple what it was in 2010 — towers above a 2.1 percent rise in wages and 3.2 percent jump in inflation.

While significant, the news is a continuation of a long-standing trend. In the past decade, premiums have increased 113 percent, while workers’ wages and inflation have only risen 34 percent and 27 percent, respectively.

The survey — considered a gold standard for tracking employer-based insurance numbers — also found that American companies added 2.3 million young adults to their parents’ family health insurance policies as a result of the health reform overhaul.

Also significant: This year, nearly a third of workers (31 percent) have health plans with deductibles of $1,000 or more. Twelve percent of those same individuals have deductibles of $2,000 or more. In small firms, a full half face deductibles topping $1,000.

The upswing in high deductibles comes in part from a rising number of employers offering “consumer-driven plans” with tax-preferred savings options such as Health Savings Accounts or Health Reimbursement Arrangements. The number of employees opting for the plans increased from 8 percent in 2009 to 17 percent in 2011.

This is the 13th year Kaiser and HRET have conducted the Employer Health Benefits Survey, which aims to paint a “detailed picture of trends in private health insurance costs and coverage.”

Hari Sreenivasan spoke with Julie Appleby of Kaiser Health News about what the findings mean:

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