Benefits

Group Health Insurance Premiums See Moderate Increase in 2012: Survey

By Jerry Geisel

Sep. 11, 2012

Group health insurance premiums rose modestly this year, according to a survey released Sept. 11 by the Kaiser Family Foundation.

The survey of more than 2,000 employers found that the premium for family coverage rose an average of 4 percent, increasing to $15,745 this year.

“Four percent is a low increase. It is good news,” said Drew Altman, president and CEO of the Kaiser Family Foundation in Washington.

That 4 percent increase compares with an average increase of 3 percent that Kaiser found in 2010 and a 9 percent increase in 2011. That 9 percent increase, which was much higher than increases found in several other surveys, may have been an “aberration,” Altman said.

A White House official attributed the large health care premium hikes Kaiser found for 2011 at least in part to insurers’ miscalculations on the impact of the health care reform law.

This year’s increase is more in line with other research. For example, employers responding to a Mercer L.L.C. survey estimate per-employee health costs in 2012 will rise an average of 5.7 percent.

• Premium costs are slightly higher at larger employers than smaller organizations. For example, the average premium cost for family coverage among larger employers, defined as those with at least 200 employees, was $15,980. That compares with an average premium cost of $15,253 among employers with between three and 199 employees.

• Employees working for smaller companies pay a much greater share of the premium than those working for larger employers. For example, in 2012, employees working at organizations with between three and 199 employees paid an average premium of $5,134 for family coverage, or well over $1,000 higher compared with the $3,926 average premium employees at larger organizations paid.

• Thirty-four percent of employees with single coverage were enrolled in a plan imposing a deductible of at least $1,000, up from 31 percent in 2011 and nearly double compared to 2008 when just 18 percent were enrolled in such a plan.

• The percentage of employers with at least one “grandfathered” health care plan slid to 58 percent this year, down from 72 percent in 2011. Under the health care reform law, grandfathered plans are exempt from certain requirements, such as offering full coverage for preventive services. But to qualify for grandfathered status, employers face limitations on how much they can shift funding cost increases to employees through boosts in deductibles and copayments.

Jerry Geisel writes for Business Insurance, a sister publication of Workforce Management. To comment, email editors@workforce.com.

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Jerry Geisel writes for Business Insurance, a sister publication of Workforce Management.

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