Research shows employees bearing an increasing share of health insurance costs

The Seattle Times carries an AP story on a new study released by the Kaiser Family Foundation on health benefits.  There’s a ton of interesting data in the report. The news coverage highlights this:

Employers are leaving a bigger chunk of the bill for care to workers who use their health insurance, and benefits experts see few signs of this trend slowing.

Most companies now offer health coverage that requires employees to pay an annual deductible before insurance kicks in, and the size of that deductible has soared in the past decade…

The trend has been going on for some time, making this comment seem just a bit off…

[Kaiser CEO Drew] Altman calls this cost shift a “quiet revolution in health insurance,” obscured in recent years by the health care overhaul’s coverage expansion for people who don’t have coverage through work.

Maybe, but in the public sector the trend has been the subject of considerable discussion. A Thrive Washington report released in January 2011 pointed out, 

Currently, Washington pays 88 percent of the premium costs for state employees for individual or family coverage. In 2003- 05, state employees paid, on average, 16.3 percent of the cost of their coverage (up from 6 percent in FY2001). In 2005, the first budget enacted after public employees were allowed to bargain collectively, the state employee share of premium costs was reduced to the current 12 percent.

By comparison, the 2010 survey of employer health benefits conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation and Health Research and Education Trust found that “on average (covered workers) contribute 19 percent of the total premium for single coverage (up from 17 percent in 2009) and 30 percent for family coverage (up from 27 percent in 2009).” The cost differential between what Washington state employees and their counterparts in the private and public sectors pay is substantial.

The most recent Kaiser survey continues to show a distinction between the structure of public and private sector benefit packages

Covered workers in private for profit firms contribute a significantly higher percentage of the premium for single coverage (19%) than do workers in private not-for-profit firms (16%) and public organizations such as state or local governments (12%)  (Exhibit 6.20).

In all, the report provides a lot of useful information on an issue that may have receded somewhat from the public debate in our state … but one that will surely resurface as part of the ongoing legislative fiscal discussions.