Tags: employer | health | plan | costs

Employer Health Plan Costs Rose Modestly

Tuesday, 20 Aug 2013 11:21 PM

By Matthew Auerbach

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The cost of employer-based health plans has risen slightly since last year, but still grew faster than wages and the general inflation rate, the Washington Times reports.

According to a new national survey of 2,000 employers conducted by the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, the cost of health care may becoming more reasonable as the back-and-forth about the impact of President Obama’s health care law rages on.

The survey found yearly premiums hiked 4 percent from 2012 and reached an average cost of $16,351 for a family plan, with the worker’s contribution slightly more than 25 percent of the cost.

Premiums for individuals rose 5 percent, to reach $5,884.

Surveyors said that by historical standards, the increases in the rates are moderate, because premiums have risen about 80 percent since 2003.

“The critics of Obamacare will have a much harder time blaming big premium increase in employer insurance on Obamacare this year, because there aren’t any big premium increases,” said Kaiser CEO Drew Altman.

A Kaiser tracking poll found most people were surprised their premiums were increasing at a slower rate, the main reason probably being the fact that wages only increased by 1.8 percent and inflation increased by 1.1 percent from 2012 to 2013.

There are two schools of thought as to what the primary reason is for slowing health costs.

One camp believes the recession played a role, while others say restrictions within Obamacare have helped keep down costs.

The survey found 149 million non-elderly Americans to be covered by employer-based plans; however, it also revealed that lower-wage earners paid more in worker contributions on average than workers at higher-wage firms did.

“This underscores how much, sometimes, lower-wage workers struggle,” said Gary Claxton, a vice president at Kaiser.

“Even when they’re offered health insurance, they sometimes have to pay quite a bit for it relative to people who make more money.”

Fifty-seven percent of all firms participating in the survey offered health benefits to at least some of their employees, which the surveyors said is “statistically unchanged” from last year’s 61 percent.

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