Among firms offering health benefits, 21% report they reduced the scope of health benefits or increased cost sharing
due to the economic downturn, and 15% report they increased the worker’s share of the premium, according to the 2009
Employer Health Benefits Survey from the Kaiser Family Foundation and the Health Research & Educational Trust.
The survey found that 60% of firms offered health benefits to any of their workers this year.
As in the past, the smaller the firm, the less likely it is to offer health benefits - with fewer than half (46%) of the smallest
employers (three to nine workers) offering health benefits.
The survey revealed
that a growing number of workers who are covered by their employer are facing high deductibles in their plans in addition
to contributing to the premiums for their coverage. In 2009, 22% of covered workers must pay at least $1,000 out of pocket
annually for single coverage before their plan generally will start to pay a share of their health care bills, up from 18%
last year and 10% in 2006.
The increase in covered workers with high deductibles stems from changes at
large employers (200 or more workers), though workers at smaller firms remain significantly more likely to face high deductibles. Among
covered workers at large firms, 13% now face deductibles at or above $1,000; at small firms (three to 199 workers), 40% face
deductibles at or above $1,000 - including 16% with deductibles at or greater than $2,000.
Organizations continue to dominate the employer market, enrolling six in 10 covered workers. Health Maintenance Organizations
cover 20% of workers, with an additional 10% in Point-of-Service plans, and 8% in consumer-directed plans, which are high-deductible
plans that also include a tax-preferred savings options such as a Health Savings Account (HSA) or Health Reimbursement Arrangement
When asked about their plans for next year, 21% of offering firms say they are "very likely"
to raise workers’ premium contribution next year, and 16% say they are "very likely" to raise deductibles.
Just 4% say they are "very likely" to restrict eligibility for coverage, and 2% say they are "very likely"
to drop health coverage altogether.
Premiums for employer-sponsored health insurance rose to $13,375 annually
for family coverage this year - with employees on average paying $3,515 and employers paying $9,860.
Family premiums rose about 5% this year, which is much more than general inflation (which fell 0.7% during the same period,
mostly due to falling energy prices). Workers wages went up 3.1% during the same period. Since 1999, premiums have gone
up a total of 131%, far more rapidly than workers’ wages (up 38% since 1999) or inflation (up 28% since 1999).
For the past few years, the annual rise in premiums has been more moderate than the double-digit growth experienced earlier
More information on the survey results can be found at the Kaiser Web site.