Kaiser survey shows 9% jump in health premiums

NORTH BAY -- Health insurance premiums for employer-sponsored  coverage increased by 9 percent this year, with the average annual cost of family coverage rising to more than $15,000, according to a survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation and Health Research Education and Trust.

The increase is steep and comes after several years of “relatively modest” premium increases, according to the survey, which noted that the increase on family premiums the previous year rose just 3 percent by comparison.

Employers on average paid nearly $11,000 toward those premiums, while employees paid an average of just over $4,100, according to the study, which surveyed small and large employers.

“This year’s 9 percent increase in premiums is especially painful for workers and employers struggling through a weak recovery,” said Drew Altman, Ph.D, chief executive officer and president of the Kaiser Family Foundation. The foundation is not associated with Kaiser Permanente.

Premiums increased significantly faster than employees’ wages, by a rate of 2.1 percent, and general inflation, by 3.2 percent, according to the study. And since 2001, family premiums have increased 113 percent, while employee wages and inflation increased 34 percent and 27 percent, respectively, by comparison.

Some possible reasons for the jump in costs include continually increasing health care costs, the notion that employees would use more health care services and, to some degree, federal health care reform, according to Mr. Altman. About 1.5 percent of the 9 percent increase is attributable to health care reform, the survey found.

[caption id="attachment_41496" align="alignleft" width="176" caption="Victor McKnight"][/caption]

Victor McKnight, a principal at the Petaluma branch of Edgewood Partners Insurance Center, said he’s seen similar increases for employers in the North Bay.

“I’m seeing employers continuing to balance between increases in copays and asking employees to pay more,” Mr. McKnight said, adding that he’s seen premium increases range between 9 percent on the low end and 15 percent on the higher end.

“The question is how do you mitigate the cost? The past few years, employers have reduced benefits,” Mr. McKnight said. “Many are now taking on an increase, but most are asking employees to pay more.”

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