Nice: Companies Passing Rising Health Care Costs to Employees

| by AFL-CIO

The Kaiser Family Foundation”s  latest survey of health care costs shows half of workers at small firms with individual policies now face annual deductibles of $1,000 or more. In 2006, that figure was 16 percent. At large firms, the share has grown from 6 percent to 22 percent over the same five years.

As health care insurance costs continue to rise, Congress should look at ways to curb health care costs rather than leaving it to private employers who have never done a good job of that, says Drew Altman, president of the Kaiser Family Foundation. In fact, Congress has a good example of ways to lower costs right under its nose, Altman writes.

While the conventional wisdom is that private insurance does a better job of controlling costs, the opposite is true.  The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) says that Medicare spending per enrollee grew at a much lower rate than private insurance between 1999 and 2009 (4.9 percent vs. 7.2 percent for comparable benefits).

You can read Altman’s post, “Rising Health Costs Are Not Just a Federal Budget Problem,”here.

The average family health care policy now costs more than $15,000 per year. Premiums for family plans rose 9 percent in 2011, while workers’ wages grew just 2 percent. Since Kaiser began the survey 13 years ago, worker contributions to premiums have increased 168 percent, while wages have grown 50 percent and inflation 38 percent, Altman says. This reflects a growing trend of employers passing on the cost of health care to workers, he says.  Read the full survey here.

The increase in premium costs is not the result of the Affordable Care Act passed in 2010, Altman says.

Most of the law’s provisions don’t go into effect until 2014.  The two biggest changes this year allow young adults up to age 26 to stay on their parents’ insurance policies and require some insurance plans to cover preventive services at no cost to patients.  These are popular provisions that provide real benefits, and combined they account for about one to two percentage points of this year’s premium increase.