- The average family health insurance plan is up 1% this year, but experts warn that inflation will send prices higher in 2023.
- Nearly half of Americans said the medical bill made them in debt.
- About 30% of large employers say their networks do not have enough behavioral health physicians or counselors to obtain timely care for workers.
The cost of family health insurance plans has risen just 1% this year even as inflation is at its highest level in four decades, with prices for gas, groceries, rent and other living expenses soaring.
The average cost of an employer-provided family health plan is $22,463 this year, up $242 from last year, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation’s Employer Health Benefits Survey released this week. Employers cover most of the tab for health insurance for the nearly 159 million Americans who get coverage through their workplace; This year workers will pay $6,106 for a family plan, usually through salary deductions.
Officials warn that significant price increases may surface in 2023 as inflation reaches the health sector and doctors and drug companies demand more lucrative payments from health insurers and employers.
Kaiser Family Foundation President and CEO Drew Altman said current prices could be “calm before the storm, as recent inflation suggests bigger increases are imminent.”
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This year’s health insurance premiums were set a year ago before inflation started picking up, according to Gary Claxton, Kaiser’s vice president and project manager for the healthcare marketplace.
Claxton said the healthcare industry is also dealing with the effects of the coronavirus pandemic. People delayed visits to doctors and hospitals in 2020 when COVID-19 appeared, so insurance companies spent less money on routine care and non-emergency operations. The insurance company’s profits doubled that year.
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“Insurance companies are still making money,” Claxton said. “It’s not like they’re struggling and really need to raise the premiums.”
The Kaiser report warned that inflation this year at 8% — the highest rate since the early 1980s — employers and consumers could see higher-than-average health insurance premiums next year. Other analysts agree. Health insurance costs for benefits advisor Seagal will rise 7.4% next year as employers and consumers absorb bills for doctors, hospitals and drug companies.
In a tight labor market, employers are reluctant to make workers pay more
Most large companies are self-financed and pay directly to their employees’ medical claims, even if a private health insurance company administers the plan. Some companies have been reluctant to get their workers to pay a larger share of health insurance or pass the costs through higher deductibles.
Kaiser reports that the average per capita deductible is $1,763, up slightly from $1,669 last year. People must pay this amount out of their own money before coverage begins.
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“At the start of this year, we were still in a tight job market,” Claxton said. “Hiring costly employees (and) annoying your existing employees is not a good idea.”
But Claxton said that as employers absorb higher medical costs and the labor market declines, companies may be more willing to increase premiums and deductibles.
Employees at companies with fewer than 200 employees must pay a larger share of their medical costs. The typical deductible in a small business is more than $2,500, or about $1,000 more than in a large corporation.
Nearly half of Americans have medical debt
Other surveys show that Americans struggle to pay for Medicare as daily living expenses increase. About 46% of people said a medical bill put them in debt, according to a survey published by telehealth company Babylon this week.
About 1 in 3 people have difficulty paying for routine or emergency care and private health insurance. Those between the ages of 25 and 34 had the hardest time paying for Medicare; The August survey of 5,000 adults found that more than half of young people struggle to afford private health insurance.
A survey by the Commonwealth Fund last month found that 42% of Americans with health insurance had trouble paying a medical bill or past medical debt. And 46% of working-age adults skipped or missed care in the past year because of cost.
However, the Commonwealth Fund report said those who had employer health insurance had stronger coverage compared to those who had bought their own health insurance outright.
Mental health networks are getting shorter
Employers are also focusing more on the mental health needs of their workers in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.
The Kaiser survey said nearly half of large employers reported that more workers were using mental health care services. Nearly 1 in 3 reported that more workers are requesting family leave to address mental health care.
But the survey also showed that a long-term shortage of mental health providers makes it difficult for workers to see a counselor or other specialist. About 30% of large employers say their networks do not have enough behavioral health physicians or counselors to obtain timely care for workers. This shortage persists even though more than 1 in 4 large companies have expanded their network of personal and remote mental health providers.
Ken Alltucker is on Twitter at @kalltucker, or can be emailed to [email protected]
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