Kaiser/HRET Survey Finds No Easy Answers for Health Insurance Challenges
WASHINGTON -- A recent Kaiser Family Foundation and Health Research and Educational Trust survey reported the slowest rate of health insurance premium growth since 2000, but premiums still increased more than twice as fast as workers' wages (3.8%) and overall inflation (3.5%).
According to the KFF/HRET 2006 Employer Health Benefits Survey, premiums for employer-sponsored health coverage rose an average 7.7% in 2006, less than the 9.2% increase recorded in 2005, and the peak of 13.9% in 2006. Family health coverage now costs an average $11,480 annually, with workers paying an average of $2,973 toward those premiums.
"We don't know yet whether workers and employers ultimately will embrace consumer-driven health plans in big numbers, but it certainly hasn't been a tidal wave," said Kaiser Family Foundation Vice President Gary Claxton, co-author of the study and director of the Foundation's Health Care Marketplace Project. "When you look at the total costs, the savings from these plans may not be enough to overcome consumer concerns about higher cost sharing."
The survey also finds employers still slow to offer consumer-driven plans with about 4% in high-deductible plans with a savings option, including those that qualify for Health Savings Accounts. Among the 2.7 million workers estimated to be enrolled in HSAs or HRAs this year, 1.4 million are in HSA-qualified plans (up from 0.8 million estimated last year) and 1.3 million are in plans with HRAs (statistically unchanged from last year's 1.6 million estimate).
Premiums for these plans averaged $3,405 annually for single coverage, and $9,484 for family coverage. The survey found that these are lower than the premiums for other types of health plans, in part because employee cost sharing is higher. However, contributions from the employer toward the savings accounts are not included. These average $743 for single coverage and $1,359 for family coverage. Including these costs, overall spending for these plans are on average similar to that for PPOs, which represent the most common type of plan.
In 2006, the average in-network PPO deductible for workers facing a deductible reached $473 for single coverage. Average co-payments for drugs across plan types were $11 for generic drugs, $24 for preferred drugs and $38 for non-preferred drugs.
The study also finds that on average, workers are paying $259 more this year than they did last year toward the cost of family health coverage. Employees at small firms (with three to 199 employees) on average contribute significantly more to their premiums ($3,550 for family coverage) than those at larger companies ($2,658 for family coverage). On average, employees this year are paying about 16% percent of premiums for single coverage and 27% of premiums for family coverage, with their employers paying the rest. --firstname.lastname@example.org