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Health Care Reform:

Health Insurance & Affordable Care Act

Family Insurance Premiums Up For 2nd Year In Row

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The employer survey found that 93 percent of firms with more than 50 workers offer coverage, down from 95 percent in the 2012 survey. Overall, 57 percent of all employers offer health insurance to their workers, down from 66 percent decade ago.  The rate of coverage by employers with 200 or more workers remained steady, with about 99 percent offering insurance.  Coverage drops off with firm size, with only 45 percent of the smallest companies offering insurance to workers, down from 55 percent in 2003.

Other findings include:

"One of the changes in this report is the growth in deductibles," said economist Paul Ginsburg of the Center for Studying Health System Change, a nonpartisan research group in Washington.  The deductibles were likely "a factor behind the premium increase being as low as it was."

Workers in small firms with three to 199 employees face an average annual deductible of $1,715 compared with $884 for those in larger firms.

Small businesses generally see more volatile insurance premium rates than larger firms. Scott Hauge, who runs an insurance brokerage firm in California, says his clients have seen increases averaging around 10 percent a year for the past seven years. He doesn't dispute the findings of the survey, but added that "small businesses are not seeing those minor increases."

Analysts say premium increases are cyclical, with periods of rapid increases, such as the double-digit hikes that marked the late 1980s and the early 2000s, followed by periods of slower growth. Since about the mid-2000s, rate increases paid by employers fell below 10 percent each year, with the smallest annual growth tracked at 3 percent in the 2009-2010 employer survey. In what surprised many analysts, rates jumped by 9 percent from 2010 to 2011 before moderating the past two years to around 4 percent.

Some employers say changes associated with the health law, such as a provision allowing adult children to stay on their parents’ plans until age 26, are adding costs.

"We're all seeing it," said Forrest Cook, vice president of human resources at NCP Solutions, a 350-employee company in Birmingham, Ala. "We have around a 5 percent to 6 percent increase this year. Before that, our costs held steady for about three or four years."

Tue, Aug 20 2013

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