The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation reported in late September that average annual health insurance premiums rose at a rate of about 4% in 2015. The average monthly premium for individuals is $521 and for families is $1,462. Data are from the 2015 Employer Health Benefits Survey from Kaiser, Health Research & Education Trust and the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago.

Key findings include:

In 2015, 57% of companies offered health insurance, a rate not statistically different from 2014. Over time (1999-2005) the percentage of companies offering insurance has declined; that decline is attributed to smaller companies dropping health coverage. Companies with a younger workforce are less likely to offer coverage.

When firms with more than 50 employees were asked, 4% changed job classifications from full-time to part-time to avoid paying health benefits, while 10% changed classifications from part-time to full time to increase eligibility in their firm. Only 4% reduced the number of full-time employees because of the cost of health benefits.

Among large firms (200 or more employees), 31% have an incentive for completing a health risk assessment, 28% have an incentive to complete biometric screening, and 31% have an incentive (or penalty) to participate in wellness programs.

The adjusted average annual deductible for all covered workers is $1,077, up from $646 in 2010 and $303 in 2006. Two-thirds of workers pay a deductible for office visits in addition to any general annual deductible.

“The continuing implementation of the ACA has brought about a number of changes for employer-based coverage…(but) most market fundamentals have stayed consistent with prior trends, suggesting that the implementation has not caused significant disruption for most market participants,” the authors said.

The full report can be accessed here.

Our Take: We’re reporting on this late but the data are too compelling to ignore.

About five and a half years have passed since the Affordable Care Act became law, and less than three years into any meaningful application of accountable care. With the level of misinformation and misunderstanding about what the ACA set out to accomplish—and what it actually has accomplished—as researchers, we believe it’s important to correct the record. 

Let’s examine some of the common cable news talking points we’ve heard for years:

Hypothesis: “Health insurance premiums will skyrocket under Obamacare.”

Fact: Health insurance premiums have risen by about the same percent every year since 2000. What’s different is that more of the burden is being shouldered by consumers, who have higher deductibles, higher co-pays, and pay a higher percentage of their premium when offered by employers.

Hypothesis: “Obamacare is just going to encourage employers to hire more part-time workers so they don’t have to pay health insurance.”

Fact: The evidence suggests otherwise. A higher percentage of employers actually upgraded job classifications to increase the benefits they offer for more employees, compared to those who downgraded to avoid paying benefits.

Hypothesis: “Obamacare is a jobs killer.”

Fact: Again, the evidence suggests otherwise. Only 4% of employers say they avoided hiring full-time employees because of health insurance costs. Besides, the rate of uninsured adults and the unemployment rate have simultaneously been in steady decline since the implementation of the ACA.

Hypothesis: “Obamacare will kill the economy.”

Fact: Real Gross Domestic Product has averaged quarterly gains of about 2.1% since Q1 2010. In the 22 quarters since 2010, only two have seen a decline in GDP: Q1 2011 (-1.5%) and Q1 2014 (-0.9%). Not seen on the chart below are the two worst quarters: Q4 2008 (-8.2%) and Q1 2009 (-5.4%). We didn’t include those data points because they skewed the axis so drastically.

As the study authors point out, while the general effect of the ACA on employers has been minimal, that doesn’t mean that change isn’t taking place. In companies with at least 200 employees, 50% offer biometric screening for risk factors such as body weight, cholesterol, stress and nutrition. Similarly, about a third of companies are offering wellness programs, disease management programs and health risk assessments and have an incentive or penalty to participate. As major insurers continue to emphasize ACO products like Aetna Whole Health to large employers, companies are increasingly asking their employees to be accountable too.

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