The Kaiser Family Foundation/Health Research & Educational Trust (HRET) released its annual employer health benefits survey Tuesday, finding that premiums increased just four percent over the past year. But, "[d]uring the same period, workers’ wages and general inflation were up 1.8 percent and 1.1 percent respectively."
This year’s rise in premiums remains moderate by historical standards. Since 2003, premiums have increased 80 percent, nearly three times as fast as wages (31 percent) and inflation (27 percent).A soon-to-be-released monthly tracking poll from KFF, previewed for the WonkBlog's Sarah Kliff, will show that people have no perception of slower health insurance premium growth. A four percent increase in premiums, balanced against a 1.8 percent salary hike, means you're still paying too much for health insurance. On top of that, the amount you have to pay in deductibles has also been increasing.
“We are in a prolonged period of moderation in premiums, which should create some breathing room for the private sector to try to reduce costs without cutting back benefits for workers,” Kaiser President and CEO Drew Altman, Ph.D., said.
“We have a very moderate increase this year, but premiums go up each year,” Kaiser Family Foundation president Drew Altman says. “People see what they pay for their premium going up and perhaps more forms of cost-sharing. We’ve been seeing a quiet revolution from more comprehensive coverage to less.”Some of the Obamacare reforms will help. Some people will get rebates from their insurance company, if the company exceeds the limit the law put in place for the non-health care related expenses. Additionally, out-of-pocket spending should decrease for everyone with more preventive care being provided without copay. But that money saved will be balanced against a premium increase—even a relatively small one—coming out of every paycheck and likely increased deductibles.
Altman said that preliminary results from his group’s survey show that 54 percent of Americans think health care costs are growing faster than average. “A tiny number said they were growing slower,” he says. “I think that’s because, if we look at this as a long term trend, health care costs have increased in excess of wages and inflation.”
Lower rates of growth in health care costs are, for the health care system, only good and the more Obamacare can contribute to that the better. The larger problem—in terms of both politics and policy—is that consumers won't feel it and in fact will be asked to pick up more of the share of their health care costs. That's not fixing the system. Obamacare is a start, and needs to succeed so that we can move on to the next reform. But there has to be a next reform.