Raising Women’s Voices

Survey: Workers’ family health care deductibles jump by 29%

Posted in Affordability, Health Reform Policy Proposals, Insurance companies by raisingwomensvoices on September 25, 2008

Workers are shouldering higher health care costs as more employers demand bigger out-of-pocket payments from employees before their insurance kicks in, a study out today shows.

Annual deductibles — the amount employees pay out of their own pockets for medical care before their insurance coverage starts — jumped an average of 29%, to $1,344, for those with family coverage, the survey says. It was conducted by the non-partisan Kaiser Family Foundation, which studies health policy, and the Health Research & Educational Trust, an affiliate of the American Hospital Association that studies health issues.

Deductibles rose an average 21% this year to $560 for single workers.

Kaiser President Drew Altman says researchers saw a “noticeable growth in high-deductible plans. … We may be seeing the tip of the iceberg toward less comprehensive, skimpier coverage.”

The survey of 1,927 employers found that 18% of insured employees pay at least $1,000 before their coverage starts — up from 12% in 2007. Among companies with fewer than 200 employees, 35% offer coverage with deductibles of at least $1,000, up from 21% last year. Most covered workers are allowed some preventive care outside the deductible.

Some employers raised workers’ deductibles this year to stabilize premiums, the monthly cost of coverage.

The Kaiser survey showed that the overall cost of health insurance premiums went up 5% this year, the smallest increase since 1999. The share workers paid remained about the same.

A separate survey out last week found that employers, who are struggling to provide insurance as their own costs soar, see little relief from the presidential candidates’ health plans. “Employers are still deeply troubled by not seeing any hope on the horizon in bringing down health care costs,” says Peter Lee, executive director of the Pacific Business Group on Health, a coalition of large and small employers that was not involved with either report.

The survey by the American Benefits Council, a trade association representing employers, asked corporate benefit managers about health policy ideas that would impact their workforce. It did not identify the ideas with either presidential candidate but briefly described the plans that Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama and Republican presidential nominee John McCain are proposing. Of the 187 benefit managers who responded:

•46% said requiring employers to offer coverage or pay into a public fund to help provide it, as Obama supports, would have a strong negative effect. About 14% viewed the idea positively.

•74% said ending the tax-free status of workers’ health insurance benefits, as McCain advocates, would be strongly negative, while 5% viewed it positively. McCain wants to offset the tax on health benefits with a tax credit of $2,500 for individuals and $5,000 for families.

Copyright 2008 USA TODAY, a division of Gannett Co. Inc.



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