Workplace health insurance premiums didn’t rise in 2022 amid rising inflation, but the good times won’t last.



CNN

Even as prices for gas, food and other items rose in 2022, health care premiums for employer-sponsored coverage remained essentially flat, according to a survey released Thursday.

Employment-based policies for families cost an average of about $22,500 in 2022, with employees contributing an average of about $6,100, the Kaiser Family Foundation Employer Health Benefits Survey found. That’s basically the same as last year.

The average cost of a single policy was more than $7,900 this year, with employees responsible for about $1,350.

Unlike in previous years, premium growth followed inflation and the increase in workers’ wages, at 8% and 6.7%, respectively. That’s because the cost of coverage is usually set months in advance, before inflation actually kicks in.

Also, health care utilization was low in 2021, so employers who fund their own health plans didn’t spend as much as planned, which kept premiums steady this year, said Matthew Rae, the Program’s associate director. Health Market at Kaiser.

But workers can expect to feel the bite of inflation when they sign up for next year’s coverage, which is happening now at many companies.

“Employers are already worried about what they’re paying for health premiums, but this could be the calm before the storm, as recent inflation suggests bigger increases are on the way,” said Kaiser CEO Drew Altman.

According to other surveys, premiums and out-of-pocket costs are expected to rise faster in 2023 than in recent years, driven by inflation. Hospitals, doctors and other providers are feeling the price pressure. Labor costs, especially nurses and service workers, and supplies have increased significantly due to inflation and demand. Therefore, insurers are being encouraged to raise reimbursement rates at the time of contract renewal.

According to Kaiser, nearly 159 million nonelderly people are covered by employer-sponsored health insurance.

This year, only deductibles have increased. The average annual deductible is about $1,760 among workers with a single coverage deductible. Compared to about $1,670 last year.

Employers, especially large ones, see a growing need for mental health services, Kaiser survey finds.

Almost half of large companies have increased the proportion of employees using mental health services, and more than a quarter say more employees are taking family leave for mental health issues.

But many employers don’t believe they have enough providers in their networks to provide timely access to mental health care, Rae said.

While 82% of companies said they have a sufficient number of primary care providers, only 44% said they have enough behavioral health providers.

Telehealth remains important, with three-quarters of companies saying telemedicine is “somewhat” or “very” important to providing access to mental health services.