Fewer Californians Get Employer Health Benefits, and Pay More for Them

Thursday, April 25, 2013
(graphic: California Healthcare Foundation)

Any Californian who has been paying for health benefits through an employer the past 10 years will not be surprised to find that costs have been soaring while benefits declined. Now those who are lucky enough to still have coverage via the workplace have some numbers to go with their anecdotal wisdom.

A survey by the California Healthcare Foundation found that health insurance premiums have increased five times as fast as inflation where businesses offer insurance, while the number of employers who offer coverage has declined from 71% in 2002 to 60% last year. Premiums in California rose 169.7% since 2002, while inflation in the state increased 31.5%. 

Much of the plunge in employers offering insurance has happened in the last few years since the economy tanked. Coverage peaked in 2009, when 73% of companies in California offered it, compared to 59% nationally. Since then, California has plummeted while national numbers have inched up, and both were at 60% by the end of last year.

Employees at bigger companies have a much better chance of receiving benefits, according to the survey. It also helps if the company pays higher wages and employs fewer part-time workers.

During the past year, 21% of companies surveyed said they had raised premiums and 17% said they had cut benefits or increased the sharing of costs. But it could get worse during the coming year.

More than one-third of companies indicated they would increase premiums and a quarter said they would raise deductibles in the run-up to introduction of the Affordable Care Act in 2014. Twenty-two percent of companies said they would raise worker co-pays and 19% said they would increase the amount workers pay for prescription drugs.

Seventeen percent of companies surveyed said they would restrict worker eligibility in the coming year and 11% said the planned on dropping coverage entirely.

The Los Angeles Times, straining to find a “silver lining” in the survey, settled on the increase in insurance premiums being only 6.4% last year—well over double the cost-of-living increase—compared to 8.1% the previous two years year before.

The average monthly premium for a single worker in 2012 was $545; the national average was $468.  

–Ken Broder


To Learn More:

Employer Health Premiums Rose 170% in California in Last Decade (by Chad Terhune, Los Angeles Times)

2012 California Employer Health Benefits Survey (California Healthcare Foundation)

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