Massachusetts Employers, Employees Paying Most For Health Care Plans

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Presidential candidates, federal and state politicians, the health care industry and voters will be watching closely over the next year to gauge the success or failure of major health care reform efforts, especially in states like Massachusetts.

In place since 2005 and unique in the nation, the Massachusetts health care model requires nearly every resident to buy health insurance. The plan is certain to garner more attention this spring as penalties for companies and employees who have not yet signed up go into effect in April.

Massachusetts employers are continuing to spend more per year than other states for health insurance on a per employee basis. The plan is being scrutinized as a potential model upon which to build a universal health care solution in the U.S. It appeals to many residents because of its comprehensiveness and relatively low cost, according to United Benefit Advisors, one of the nation's leading independent employee benefits advisory organizations, employers are struggling to pay the high health care plan costs.

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"The Massachusetts model is the closest concept to a national health care plan that we have today and some presidential candidates in various ways have historically touted that model as the foundation of their health care solutions," said William Stafford, vice president of member services at UBA. "Plans offered by employers in Massachusetts are in reality costing a fortune. During this time when presidential candidates are debating best practices to solve the nation's health care crisis, Americans must carefully contemplate what is being proposed and weigh their decisions extremely carefully."

UBA has released results of its latest national benchmarking survey, the 2007 UBA Health Plan Survey, a far-reaching industry analysis of employer health plan design and cost. UBA collected plan data from thousands of the nation's employers of all sizes with an emphasis on small-to mid-sized employers, who represent the majority of the nation's 3 million-plus employers. The survey's primary purpose is to provide accurate, relevant health plan benchmarks that employers can use to make critical benefits decisions.

The 2007 UBA Health Plan Survey consists of 11,723 employers throughout the nation who combined extend health benefits to nearly 4.5 million employees and family members.

"Our survey is the nation's largest comprehensive benchmark survey of health plan design and costs," Stafford said. "The survey reveals critical statistics about hundreds of health plan factors, including enrollment specifics, plan design and cost and employee premium cost-sharing options, including consumer-driven health plans. Results also yield important statistics about prescription drug plans, retirement benefits and flexible spending accounts."

Nationwide, based on 16,485 health plans included in the 2007 survey, the average annual total cost per employee, which includes both employer and employee contributions, was $6,881.

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