Group health insurance premiums rising faster than wages

The cost for workplace-based family health insurance rose by 4 percent in 2012, while wages climbed a mere 1.7 percent, according to a national survey of businesses released this week.

The disparity between employer-sponsored coverage and salaries was even more dramatic when studied over a 10-year period, says a survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation/Health Research & Educational Trust (HRET).. Since 2002, premiums have leaped by 97 percent, far out-pacing the 33 percent growth in wages and the inflation rate of 38 percent. (See: “Take care or pay a higher share of your insurance costs.”)

The 4 percent increase this year also eclipsed inflation, which grew by 2.3 percent from 2011.The annual cost for family health coverage was $ 15,745 in 2012, with workers paying an average of $ 4,316 in premiums, according to Kaiser/HRET. (See: “Open enrollment: 5 tips for selecting the best benefits.”)

For employee-only insurance, employers spent $ 5,615 annually, a jump of 3 percent. Employees contributed $ 951.

Drew Altman, the president and CEO of the Kaiser Family Foundation, described this year’s family premium rise as “moderate.” He added that it was significantly lower than the 9 percent hike in 2011.

“In terms of employee insurance costs, this year’s 4 percent increase qualifies as a good year, but it still takes a growing bite out of middle-class workers’ wages, which have been flat or falling in real terms,” Altman said. (See: “5 things you don’t know about group health insurance.”)

Kaiser: lower-wage earners pay more for health insurance “This year’s survey suggests that working families at the low end of the wage scale face significant out-of-pocket costs for coverage,” said Gary Claxton, a Kaiser vice president and director of the foundation’s Health Care Marketplace Project. “Firms with many lower-wage workers ask employees to pay more out of pocket than firms with many higher-wage workers.”

Specifically, workers at lower-wage firms pay about $ 1,000 more from their salaries each year for family coverage than workers at higher-wage firms. That means, on average, lower earners spend $ 4,977 for medical insurance while higher earners pay $ 3,968, according to Kaiser/HRET. “This occurs even though the firms with many lower-wage workers on average pay less in total premiums for family coverage than firms with many higher-wage workers, $ 14,694 and $ 16,427, respectively,” the survey states.

The annual Kaiser/HRET survey, now in its 14 year, gathered information from more than 2,000 small and large employers between January and May. Other major findings include:

Government findings for health insurance The U.S. Census Bureau also released a far-reaching report this week which adds more details to the nation’s health insurance picture.

Census statistics show that there was a slight drop in the number of people without medical coverage of any kind in 2011. While 50 million people went without insurance in 2011, the figure declined to 48.6 million in 2011, as did the percentage without coverage — from 16.3 percent in 2010 to 15.7 percent in 2011. Those with medical coverage climbed to 260.2 million in 2011 from 256.6 million in 2010; that breaks down to 84.3 percent of the population with insurance in 2011, contrasted with 83.7 percent the previous year.

Other key points from the U.S. Census Bureau:

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