Examining Employer-Sponsored Health Coverage Trends

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Summaries of two articles examining employer-sponsored health coverage trends appear below.

• Employee Plans: McClatchy/Raleigh News & Observer on Wednesday examined several recent surveys that found health care costs for employers who offer coverage will face increases in 2009 and some of those costs will be shifted to employees. A Mercer study found that the employer costs nationally would increase by an average of 8% to 10%, while a Towers Perrin study estimated the cost increase at about 6%, McClatchy/News & Observer reports. Meanwhile, a survey released by the Kaiser Family Foundation and Health Research & Educational Trust found that family premiums for employer-sponsored health insurance in 2008 increased to $12,680 annually, of which workers paid an average of $3,354 from their paychecks.

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By comparison, the total cost for family premiums in 1999 was about $5,790, of which workers paid about $1,543. According to Drew Altman, president and CEO of the Kaiser Family Foundation, employer-sponsored health benefits in 2009 will be "skimpier and less comprehensive," and "[m]any working people will have higher out-of-pocket costs" (Stafford, McClatchy/Raleigh News & Observer, 10/15).

• Health savings accounts: BusinessWeek on Monday examined the benefits and drawbacks of HSAs. According to BusinessWeek, "HSAs have been available since 1994," but "the trend of 'consumer-driven health care' has not gained much traction with the American public ... because most people are confused about how HSAs work." Many people "simply don't want to be their own health care manager" and the "high deductibles ... scare off lower-paid workers," BusinessWeek reports.

In addition, "the cost savings just aren't clear enough to lure employees whose employers still give them a choice between HSAs and a more traditional health insurance plan," according to BusinessWeek. However, HSAs can help to shift some employer health care costs to workers, which is why more than half of the large employers in the U.S during the current benefits enrollment period will provide their employees with an HSA option during the current benefits enrollment period (Young, BusinessWeek, 10/13).

Reprinted with permission from kaisernetwork.org. You can view the entire Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report, search the archives, and sign up for email delivery at kaisernetwork.org/email . The Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report is published for kaisernetwork.org, a free service of The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. © 2007 Advisory Board Company and Kaiser Family Foundation. All rights reserved.

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