Heath Plan Premium Increases Slow to 8.6%

September 13, 2006 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - The average annual health plan cost per employee is $6,629, with employees bearing an average of $2,031 of the cost and employers $4,592 per employee, according to a recent health plan benchmark survey.

The survey by United Benefit Advisors (UBA), an alliance of 141 independent benefit advisory firms, found that average premiums increased 8.6% for all plans, slowed from last year’s increase of 9.6%.

The survey found that the average premiums for all plans were $331 for single coverage and $817 for family coverage. However, 32.3% of all plans required no contributions from employees, where 8.3% required no family contributions. Of the plans that require contributions, employees contributed an average of 26.9% of premiums, or $88 for single coverage, and 45.3%, or $361 for family coverage.

Of all health plan types, Consumer Driven Health Plans (CDHP), such as Health Reimbursement Accounts (HRA) and Health Savings Accounts (HSA) had the smallest increases in premiums at 5.7%. The number of employers offering CDPs has increased over the past year, with 5.8% of those surveyed saying they offered them compared to last year’s 2.6%, with the main driver of this being from employers with less than 100 employees.

One reason for the increase in offering CDHPs is that employers are beginning to see the plans as a way to shave costs, a Buck Consultants employer survey released in July found (See Study: Employers See CDHPs as Course to Lower Health Care Costs ).

According to the UBA survey, the average employer contribution to an HRA was $1,033 for single and $1,965 for family, while average employer contributions to a HSA were $938 single and $1,533 family.

The survey also looked at how plan premiums in different regions of the country stacked up, finding that the Northeast has premiums that are 13% above the national average due to offering more expensive benefits. Specifically, 74.6% of plans in the Northeast have no single deductible and 83.3% have no in-network coinsurance, versus roughly 25% for plans in other regions.

Other findings of the survey include:

  • The median single Preferred Provider Organization (PPO) deductible is now $500, while in-network and out-of-network coinsurance is 80% and 60%, respectively.
  • Health Maintenance Organizations (HMO) and CDHPs have approximately 10% lower annual costs per employee than the average plan, while Point-of-Service (POS) and Fee-for-Service (FFS) plans have nearly 9% and 21% higher annual costs per employee than the average plan, respectively.
  • 48.2% of covered employees also elect dependent coverage, with the highest percentage (52.5%) being covered by CDHPs.

To order a copy of the report go to www.benefits.com .