Small Firms Suffering
Smaller firms have a higher share of workers in high-deductible plans, the survey reports. It shows that 40% of covered workers in firms of fewer than 200 employees had deductibles of at least $1,000 for single coverage, up from just 16% in 2006. Just 13% of employees in large firms this year had a deductible of that size.
Small employers generally lack the bargaining power of large companies in negotiating affordable rates with health insurers.
Many small firms have seen double-digit percentage increases in health costs, says Amanda Austin, director of federal public policy for the National Federation of Independent Business. Smaller companies often are forced to raise deductibles to keep insurance affordable, she says.
The cost of insurance is a top priority for her organization’s members as the health reform debate continues, Austin says. “We can’t just walk away from this problem,’’ she said. “It’s on an unsustainable path.’’
Costs Rise, Benefits Reduce
Companies of all sizes continued to pare benefits this year, the survey shows. Among firms that provide health insurance, 21% reduced the scope of benefits or increased worker cost-sharing due to the downturn, and 15% raised the worker’s share of the premium.
Next year will put even more financial pressure on workers, the survey suggests. It shows that 42% of employers are very likely or somewhat likely to increase the amount workers pay for insurance next year, and that 36% are very or somewhat likely to raise worker deductibles. Similar percentages of employers also expressed a likelihood of raising co-pays for office visits and prescription drugs.
The most popular health plan remains the preferred provider organization (PPO), with 60% of workers enrolled. The survey reported that 8% of workers had high-deductible plans with savings options, unchanged from the year before. These health plans have not gained much traction among workers, the survey sponsors say.