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September 15, 2009
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Sue Ducat

Christopher Fleming
(301) 347-3944

Bethesda, MD -- Premiums for employer-sponsored health insurance rose to $13,375 annually for family coverage this year -- with employees on average paying $3,515 and employers paying $9,860, according an article published today on the Health Affairs Web site. The article reports key findings from the benchmark 2009 Employer Health Benefits Survey sponsored by the Kaiser Family Foundation and the Health Research and Educational Trust (HRET). http://content.healthaffairs.org/cgi/content/abstract/hlthaff.28.6.w1002

Family premiums rose about 5 percent this year, which is much more than general inflation (which fell 0.7 percent during the same period, mostly due to falling energy prices). Workers' wages went up 3.1 percent during the same period. Since 1999, premiums have gone up a total of 131 percent -- far more rapidly than workers' wages (up 38 percent since 1999) or inflation (up 28 percent since 1999). For the past few years, however, the annual rise in premiums has been more moderate than the double-digit growth experienced earlier this decade, according to the article by Kaiser Family Foundation Vice President Gary Claxton and coauthors.

In a separate study published today on the Health Affairs Web site, researchers examine the potential impact of a proposed new public health insurance option on hospital finances and private health insurance premiums. Such a new "public option" is part of health reform measures that have been approved by four committees in the House and Senate.

A new government-run plan could sharply increase private insurance premiums if the plan were aggressively implemented to include large numbers of those who currently have private health insurance, say Allen Dobson, president of Dobson Davanzo and Associates LLC in Vienna, Virginia, and colleagues. Because reimbursements offered by the public plan would likely be below hospitals' costs, hospitals might attempt to shift costs to those who remain in private plans, thus driving up private premiums, the authors write.

On the other hand, a new public option could bolster hospital margins if enrollment in the plan were dominated by those who are currently uninsured, according to Dobson and coauthors. The study, funded jointly by Dobson Davanzo and America's Health Insurance Plans, relies on 2007 data from the California Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development.

You can read the article by Claxton and coauthors at http://content.healthaffairs.org/cgi/content/abstract/hlthaff.28.6.w1002

You can read the article by Dobson and coauthors at http://content.healthaffairs.org/cgi/content/abstract/hlthaff.28.6.w1013



Health Affairs, published by Project HOPE, is the leading journal of health policy. The peer-reviewed journal appears bimonthly in print with additional online-only papers published weekly as Health Affairs Web Exclusives at www.healthaffairs.org.


©2009 Project HOPE–The People-to-People Health Foundation, Inc.