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Robert Trigaux

Health benefits: More premiums fall on workers as insurance gets "stingier, less comprehensive"



kaiser2010healthsurveychart.gifWake up and good morning. Now that it's September and the peak of hurricane season, let's look to the Cat 5 storm that hits employer and employee wallets this time of year: Annual health coverage premiums.

Workers on average are paying nearly $4,000 this year toward the cost of family health coverage -- an increase of 14 percent, or $482, above what they paid last year. So says the benchmark 2010 Employer Health Benefits Survey released Thursday by the Kaiser Family Foundation and the Health Research & Educational Trust. Here's the survey news release and here's the complete, 224-page report.

Now a $482 or 14 percent increase would not normally be a killer but in an era when fewer workers are getting raises, it is an especially painful hike in household expense. 

The jump occurred even though the total premiums for family coverage, including what employers themselves contribute, rose a modest 3 percent to $13,770 on average in 2010, the survey found.  In contrast, the amount employers contribute for family coverage did not increase.

Still, the survey points out, companies are paying nearly three-quarters of workers' health-care premiums.

Translation? Employers passed health-insurance costs onto employees at a sharply higher rate this year, and businesses' premiums grew more slowly than they have in a decade. As reported in the Wall Street Journal, the "increased cost-shifting reflected an acceleration of a trend that has been on the rise for years." Companies struggling to cut costs in the recession continue to reduce benefits they offer workers or make workers pay more for them.

drewaltmankaiserfamilyfoundation.jpg"It's the first time I can remember when employers have coped with costs by shifting it all to workers," Drew Altman (see photo), the Kaiser Family Foundation CEO, told the Journal. Here's the complete story.

"The long-term trend is pretty clear," Altman told the New York Times. "Insurance is getting stingier and less comprehensive." Here's that story.

-- Robert Trigaux, Times Business Columnist


[Last modified: Friday, September 3, 2010 7:00am]


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