For Many Workers, It's Time To Consider Insurance Options | WAMU 88.5 - American University Radio

NPR : News

Filed Under:

For Many Workers, It's Time To Consider Insurance Options

It's open enrollment time again, the autumn period when many people with job-based health insurance ante up for another year.

Although news reports have fixated on the problems with the online health marketplaces that launched Oct. 1, for the vast majority of people that's a nonissue. If they get insurance through a job at a company that has at least 50 employees, they probably won't be using the marketplaces, also called exchanges.

That doesn't mean people with employer-based plans are completely unaffected by the health law. As employers adjust plans to meet new requirements, people can expect to see some changes.

Overall, premium increases will be moderate in 2014, averaging 5.2 percent, according to an employer survey about planned health care changes by the human resources consultant Towers Watson. (Last year, the increase was projected to be 5.9 percent in 2013.)

But employers may raise rates more for spouses and dependents, the survey found. The health law requires plans to cover dependent children up to age 26, and most plans cover spouses too. But employers continue to try to minimize those costs by making it financially less attractive to employees to cover their family members. They may charge separately for each child on a plan, for example, or add a surcharge for covering a spouse who is also offered insurance through his or her own job. Some, such as UPS, have moved to cut coverage for spouses who have access for insurance through their own jobs.

In the Towers Watson survey, 34 percent of employers said they planned to increase the employee share of the premium for spouse and dependent coverage by 5 percentage points or more in 2014. Last year, 21 percent planned such big increases. In contrast, 22 percent of employers said they would increase the worker's share for employee-only coverage by 5 percentage points or more.

"Everyone wants to make sure they're not picking up the cost of covering other dependents," says Julie Stone, a senior consultant at Towers Watson.

Another change deals with the so-called Cadillac plans — those that cost more than $10,200 for an individual or $27,500 for a family. In 2018, these policies will incur an excise tax of 40 percent on the amount that premiums exceed those totals.

Stone says 60 percent of employers surveyed expect to trigger the tax if they don't adjust their plans, and some are beginning to make incremental changes in 2014 to ratchet back on generous coverage.

For employees that will generally mean higher deductibles and copayments or coinsurance, not to mention a continued shift to account-based plans — high deductible plans paired with a health savings account or health reimbursement arrangement from the employer that the worker can use to cover out-of-pocket costs.

More than half of employers offered such plans in 2013, according to Aon Hewitt's annual employer survey, and another 30 percent are considering doing so in the next five years. A growing number of employers are offering these plans as the only option, say experts.

Copyright 2013 Kaiser Health News. To see more, visit http://www.kaiserhealthnews.org/.

NPR

These 'True Tales' Add Nuance To The Immigration Discussion

President Obama announced an executive action on immigration this week. For an in-depth look at the issue, author Gustavo Arellano recommends two nonfiction collections about Mexican immigrants.
NPR

Need A New Sweet Potato Recipe For Your Thanksgiving Table? Try Gnocchi

Because some cooks like to mix it up for Thanksgiving, we offer a Found Recipe from our archives: Julia Della Croce's purple sweet potato gnocchi.
NPR

House Panel Finds 'No Intelligence Failure' Before Benghazi Attack

The final report by the House Intelligence Committee concludes the CIA "ensured sufficient security for CIA facilities in Benghazi and ... bravely assisted the State Department" on Sept. 11, 2012.
NPR

Electric Bikes, On A Roll In Europe, Start To Climb In U.S.

Electric bicycles have been popular in Europe for some time. But recently there has been a surge in U.S. sales amid changing perceptions that e-bikes aren't just for the elderly.

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.