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Group health premiums inch up while deductibles jump

Posted On: Sep. 22, 2015 12:00 AM CST

Group health premiums inch up while deductibles jump

Group health insurance premiums continue to rise modestly, according to a survey released Tuesday by the Kaiser Family Foundation and the Health Research & Educational Trust.

The survey of nearly 2,000 employers conducted from January through June found that the premium for family coverage rose an average of 4.2% in 2015, increasing to $17,545. That 4.2% increase compares with average premium hikes of 3% in 2014, 3.8% in 2013 and 4.5% in 2012.

While premium increases were modest, cost-shifting to employees in the form of higher deductibles was not. This year, the average deductible for employees with single coverage increased to $1,318, up 8.3% over 2014.

“With deductibles rising so much faster than premiums and wages, it's no surprise that consumers have not felt the slowdown in health spending,” Kaiser President and CEO Drew Altman in Washington said in a statement.

Other findings in the Kaiser/HRET survey include:

• Premium costs are considerably higher at larger employers than at smaller organizations. For example, the average premium cost in 2015 for family coverage among larger employers — defined as those with at least 200 employees — was $17,983. That compares with an average premium cost of $16,625 among employers with between three and 199 employees.

• Employees working for smaller companies pay a much greater share of the premium than those working for larger employers. For example, in 2015, employees working at organizations with between three and 199 employees paid an average premium of $5,904 for family coverage, $1,355 more than employees working at larger employers who paid an average $4,549 in premium contributions.

• Thirty-nine percent of employees with single coverage are enrolled in plans with an annual deductible of at least $1,000, up sharply from 32% in 2014 and three times higher compared with 2009, when just 13% of employees with single coverage faced deductibles of at least $1,000.

• The percentage of employers offering coverage to their employees varied considerably by employer size. For example, 97% of employers with at least 100 employees offered coverage to employees in 2015, up from 94% in 2014, while 54% of employers with between three and 49 employees offered coverage in 2015, up from 52% in 2014.

While enrollment in private health insurance exchanges remains modest — just 2% of covered employees in firms with more than 50 employees are enrolled in a private exchange — 17% of firms with more than 50 employees and 22% of employers with at least 5,000 employees are considering offering benefits through an exchange.