KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

Study Finds Average Health Insurance Deductible Grows To $1,200 As Employer Costs Grow Too

A new Mercer survey has found that the average health insurance deductible is now $1,200.

The Wall Street Journal: In 2005, deductibles were only $770, but "in 2010, the average deductible for PPOs, the most common employer-provider health plan, hit a whopping $1,200, according to a Mercer survey of 2,836 employers with 10 or more employees. The survey also found that total health benefit costs rose 6.9% this year, up from 5.5% in 2009. An earlier study by Mercer found that employers anticipate they will spend about 5.9% more per employee on health care in 2011, after shifting some costs to workers and making other changes" (Hobson, 11/17).

The Charlotte Observer: "The average benefit cost per employee rose to $9,562. … Employers expect big increases again in 2011 driven by prices for health care services, increased usage and changes mandated by the federal health overhaul. Total costs are expected to rise 10%, but most employers will continue making changes to limit increases. Those efforts, including higher deductibles and passing on costs to workers, likely will eat into employees' paychecks and continue to erode household budgets. Changes to health coverage also are increasing confusion and forcing consumers to pay close attention to their choices" (Wolf, 11/18).

Los Angeles Times: "California employers that provide health insurance benefits for their workers have seen their costs rise 8.4% this year, outpacing increases for businesses nationally, and fees could climb 11.4% next year, a study showed Wednesday. Employers in California are spending an average of $9,960 per worker on health care in 2010. … Mercer attributed the higher California costs to the state's relatively expensive marketplaces and to a heavy reliance on HMOs, which offer generous benefits but charge higher premiums on average than other types of insurance" (Helfand, 11/18).

The Atlanta Journal Constitution: "Atlanta employers now expect a 6.3% bump in per-employee health benefit costs in 2011, after modifying benefits to lower the costs of coverage. … Requirements of the nation's new health care law drove about one-sixth to one-third of the projected 6.3% increase for next year, according to the national survey results. Among the provisions driving the extra costs are the requirement to allow parents to add adult children up to age 26 to their plans, elimination of lifetime benefit limits and more generous coverage for preventive care" (Teegardin, 11/17).

Crain's Detroit Business: "Michigan's health benefit costs rose 5.3% in 2010, a slower rate than the 6.9% national rate, reflecting more aggressive steps by local employers to shift costs to employees and make other benefit changes, according to Mercer's 2010 National Survey of Employer-Sponsored Health Plans. … To hold down costs, [Jerry] Konal [Mercer's health and benefits practice leader in Detroit] said large employers added lower cost consumer-directed health plans. Employers also provided employees with financial incentives to take better care of their health, he said" (Greene, 11/17).

The Dallas Morning News: Health costs "next year will not increase as much in Dallas. Employers nationally expect a 6.4% increase; Dallas employers expect a 5.4% increase. Employers said increases would have been 8% to 10% if no changes were made to their health plans. Instead they have raised deductibles, dropped costly insurance options, added cheaper consumer-directed health plans and increased participation" (Roberson, 11/18).

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