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Is low cost health insurance from employers a thing of the past? Posted: March 26th, 2013

By Maryalene LaPonsie

The price of health insurance coverage keeps going up, and it isn't just those buying on the individual market who are feeling the sting of rising premiums. A new report from The Commonwealth Fund finds the cost of employer-sponsored medical insurance jumped 62 percent from 2003-2011.

According to the study, the average annual price tag for family health insurance plans went from $9,249 in 2003 to $15,022 in 2011. For workers, the bad news is employers aren't absorbing that cost themselves and are instead passing on additional costs to policyholders.

During the eight year period reviewed by The Commonwealth Fund, workers saw their share of plan premiums increase an average of 74 percent. In addition, they have been expected to foot a larger portion of their out-of-pocket costs with deductibles rising 117 percent from 2003-2011.

Access to affordable health insurance varies by region

The Commonwealth Fund conducted a state-by-state review of employer-sponsored medical insurance. While New York had the largest percentage increase with 76 percent growth in its average premiums, the report found affordable health insurance may be most difficult to find in south and south-central states.

Average total health insurance premiums exceeded 25 percent of median incomes in the following states:

  • West Virginia
  • Texas
  • New Mexico
  • South Carolina

However, a representative from the group indicates low cost health insurance may be increasingly difficult to find regardless of where workers live. Nationally, total annual premiums exceeded 20 percent of median family incomes in 35 states.

"Wherever you live in the United States, health insurance is expensive, and for many middle- as well as low-income families it is becoming ever less affordable," said Commonwealth Fund senior vice president Cathy Schoen, in a statement. "Workers are paying more for less financial protection when they get sick."

The report notes that in 2003 no states had average deductibles in excess of $1,000 for employer-sponsored health insurance coverage. By 2011, average deductibles had topped $1,000 in 35 states.

Should the current trend in premiums for group health insurance plans continue, The Commonwealth Fund says the cost of family medical insurance could increase another 65 percent from 2011-2020. Using historical data, the group has determined premiums for family plans will be $24,740 in 2020. However, the report authors also note provisions of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act could slow the rate of increase.