Premiums increase, but at slower rate

Health insurance premiums rose 4 percent this year--less than half of the 9 percent increase last year--continuing the recent trend of moderated health costs and spending, said a Kaiser Family Foundation survey released Tuesday.

Although considered a modest increase, the 4 percent rise in premium costs this year is still well ahead of both the 1.7 percent increase in average wages and the 2.3 percent rate of general inflation, reported Reuters.

Meanwhile, employers continue moving their workers into lower-cost, high-deductible plans. The Kaiser study found that 34 percent of employees were enrolled in health policies with annual deductibles of at least $1,000 for single coverage, up from 31 percent in 2011, the Associated Press reported.

"Increases in recent years in cost sharing through high deductible plans have probably played a supporting role" in moderating health costs, Kaiser Family Foundation CEO Drew Altman noted in related comments to the survey. "We also know that higher out-of-pocket costs deter utilization, so it's reasonable to assume that the growth of high-deductible plans and other forms of cost sharing has had an impact on health care use, magnifying the effect of the economy."

Whether through high-deductible or more traditional plans, the availability of employer-based coverage remained unchanged from last year, with 61 percent of companies providing health coverage.

But insurers claim employers are pressuring them to limit premium cost increases. "We're seeing competitive pricing," particularly among large and medium-sized employers, Health Net CEO Jay Gellert said yesterday during a Morgan Stanley conference in New York, Bloomberg reported.

To learn more:
- read the Kaiser survey and comments
- read the Reuters article
- see the Associated Press article
- check out the Bloomberg article

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