Kaiser survey: American health care benefits continue to erode

kaiserAn annual survey released this week finds more American workers are seeing their health care benefits eroded.

The Kaiser Family Foundation survey, released Tuesday, obtained in-depth responses from more than 2,000 private firms and non-federal public employers and echoes one of my other blog’s call (Dear Congress: Fix our health care system )  for Congress to do something to address this problem.

Here’s a thumbnail of the survey’s findings:

  • Forty percent of the employers surveyed said they would likely to increase the amount their workers pay out of pocket for doctor visits.
  • Almost as many said they are likely to raise annual deductibles and the amount workers pay for prescription drugs.
  • Nine percent said they plan to tighten eligibility for health benefits; 8 percent said they plan to drop coverage entirely.
  • Forty-one percent of employers said they are “somewhat” or “very” likely to increase the amount employees pay in premiums — though that would not necessarily mean employees would pay a higher percentage of the premiums.

USA Today: “An average family health insurance policy now costs more than some compact cars, and four in 10 companies will likely pass more of that expense on to workers.” The increasing costs “underscore warnings by President Obama about the growing cost of health insurance and were embraced by Democratic lawmakers who are pushing for legislation to change the nation’s health care system. … The annual survey of more than 2,000 companies also found that 40% of small-business employees enrolled in individual health plans pay annual deductibles of $1,000 or more. That’s almost twice the number who paid that much in 2007” (Fritze, 9/16).

The authors of the study said the findings underscore the need for federal action to rein in health care costs.

KaiserHealthCareAccording to the survey, annual health care premium increases for families totaled 13 percent in 2002 and 2003 but have held steady at 5 percent since 2007.

However, premiums have continued to rise faster than wages and overall inflation, the survey found. Though family premiums for 2009 rose 5 percent, during the 12-month period ending in April, general inflation fell 0.7 percent.

The Health Research and Educational Trust partnered in the survey.  It’s affiliated with the American Hospital Association.

Troubling future trends

A major business lobby weighed in Tuesday, saying that if current trends continue, annual health-care costs for employers will rise 166 percent over the next decade — to $28,530 per employee.

“Maintaining the status quo is simply not an option,” said Antonio M. Perez, chief executive of Eastman Kodak and a leader of the Business Roundtable. “These costs are unsustainable and would put millions of workers at risk,” Perez said in a statement.

The Wall Street Journal: “Business groups that have opposed House versions of a health bill say they are warmer toward the version emerging from Sen. Max Baucus’s Finance Committee, which places less-onerous requirements on employers. … The House version of the health legislation would require some employers to pay as much as 8% of payroll as a fine if they don’t offer coverage to workers. Under the Senate Finance measure, employers who decline to provide coverage would face a smaller penalty, and in narrower circumstances.” But employers are still concerned that “a provision to tax insurance companies on generous health-insurance benefits could get passed onto employers. Some groups also say the Senate proposal doesn’t go far enough to lower overall health-care costs” (Adamy, 9/16).

About Bernard McCoy

My views are my own and not a reflection of my employer. I'm a professor of Journalism at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. I've also been a working journalist for the past 29 years. I have covered news stories in war zones, reported on human and natural disasters, presidential conventions, a presidential inauguration and the September 11th, 2001 attack on the World Trade Center in New York City. My career experiences include work as an award-winning documentary producer, television news reporter, photographer, producer, and anchor. I worked at WIBW-TV, Topeka, KS., KCTV, Kansas City, MO, WKBD-TV, Detroit, MI., WILX-TV, Lansing, MI. and WBNS-TV, Columbus, OH. I have also worked as a contributing reporter for The Columbus Dispatch, Associated Press, CBS, CNN, the Ohio News Network and lecture at the Kosovo Institute of Journalism and Communications. I have a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Kansas and a master’s degree in telecommunications management from Michigan State University.
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