Has health insurance coverage gone from benefit to liability?
MENLO PARK, Calif. - In the future, providing health insurance as an employee benefit may no longer be a "given" as more employers pass most of the costs on to their employees. A recent Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation survey finds that health insurance prices have jumped 12.7% representing the biggest hike since 1990. Across the board employers are either skimping on health benefits or opting not to offer any health insurance with many saying they cannot afford to carry the costs on their own. According to the survey, while about two out of three Americans have health insurance through their jobs, the number of uninsured has increased with only 62% of all employers offering health coverage to their workers, down from 65% just a year ago. Employees contributed $38 per month, a 27% increase, toward their share of premiums for single coverage and $174 per month, a 16% jump, for family coverage. In addition, the average deductible to pay for doctors' visits for those in preferred provider organizations has jumped 37% since last year. In addition, the percentage of employees who belong to plans with three-tiered drug benefits, a method of countering rising prescription drug costs, rose to 57% from 36% last year. According to experts, premiums are expected to keep ballooning because medical costs, such as drug and hospital costs are rising. The survey also finds that a majority of employers (53% of all firms) report that health insurance is the benefit that causes the greatest cost concern. A slightly higher percentage of all companies surveyed report that they are very likely to increase employee's costs or restrict eligibility for coverage if the economic downturn continues or premiums increase next year by 20% or more. For the first time in four years of conducting the survey 17% of workers report that their employers have reduced their health benefits. The survey of about 3,300 randomly selected public and private employers was conducted from January to May of 2002.