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U.S. employees pay higher health insurance costs in 2017 as employer premiums rise

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U.S. employer premiums rose an average of 6.6 percent in the first three fiscal quarters of 2017, according to the 2017 United Benefit Advisors (UBA) Health Plan Survey released on 26 October. This is a significant increase from the five-year average increase of 5.6%.

Two states, Connecticut and New York, saw stunning increases of 24% and 14% respectively, while some states, such as Arizona and Washington, saw decreases of 2% and 10% respectively.

The survey contains validated responses of 20,099 health plans and 11, 221 employers, who cumulatively employ over two and a half million employees and insure more than five million lives.

Average employee premiums for all employer-sponsored plans rose from $509 in 2016 to $532 in 2017 for single coverage (4.5%), and from $1,236 to $1,272 (3%) for family coverage. Average annual total costs per employee increased from $9,727 to $9,935; however, the employee share of total costs rose 5% from $3,378 to $3,550, while the employer’s share rose less than 1%, from $6,350 to $6,401, indicating that employers are shifting more premiums onto employees.

Employers are offering more lower-cost, CDHP and HMO plans, increasing out-of-network deductibles and out-of-pocket maximums; as well as reductions in prescription drug coverage. These reductions come in the form of shifting prescription drug costs back to the employees and containing costs by increasing tiering and adding coinsurance as opposed to copays.

Median in-network deductibles for singles and families across all plans remain steady, while single out-of-network median deductibles saw a 13% increase in 2016 and a 17.6% increase in 2017. Singles and families alike face continued increases in median in-network out-of-pocket maximums, and the number of employers using self-funding grew 48% for employers with 25 to 49 employees in 2017, and 13.4% for employers with 40-99 employees.

The 2017 UBA Health Plan Survey Executive Summary is available via http://www.ubabenefits.com/wisdom/surveys (registration and other marketing information required).

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