3 secrets about 2016 group health benefits

From the front, the employer market looks like another market that's in the news

UBA says the typical in-network PPO deductible jumped to $1,500, from $1,000. (Photo: Thinkstock) UBA says the typical in-network PPO deductible jumped to $1,500, from $1,000. (Photo: Thinkstock)

The research team at United Benefit Advisors has tried to build potential survey users' appetite for its full 2016 health plan survey report by giving the public an early taste of the numbers.

The team has come out with information about health coverage premiums, the average worker's share of the premiums, and typical deductibles for 19,557 employer plans that cover a total of about 5 million people.

Related: Why more workers blew off employer health coverage

The participating plans cover an average of about 250 people each.

But UBA, an Indianapolis-based group that provides support services for about 2,000 independent benefits brokers and consultants, says its sample includes many more of the kinds of small and midsize employers that an insurance agent or broker might actually serve, because it recruits the survey participants through its members.

Related: Small employers are dropping health plans, EBRI says

For glimpses at some of what UBA found about the participating employers' 2016 health benefits packages, read on.

Group health premiums have been about as flat as a highway in Kansas. (Photo: Allison Bell/LHP)

Group health premiums have been about as flat as a highway in Kansas. (Photo: Allison Bell/LHP)

1. Total monthly premiums held steady.

The monthly premium for participants' employee-only coverage is $509 this year. That's the same as it was in 2015.

Related: What 3 regulators told Congress about 2016 health rates

Workers in the participating plans pay about one-third of their health coverage premiums. (Image: Thinkstock)

Workers in the participating plans pay about one-third of their health coverage premiums. (Image: Thinkstock)

2. The workers' share of the premiums increased a little more than the employer's share, but deductibles got a lot bigger.

For workers, the average monthly contribution for single coverage increased just 2.6 percent this year, to $144, and the average monthly contribution for family coverage increased only 2.2 percent, to $552.

Employers covered an average of 65 percent of the premiums for all employees, with an average of 71 percent of the total for single coverage and 54 percent of the total for family coverage. The overall average share was down just a little bit, from 66 percent, in 2015.

But employers held their monthly premiums and the employees' share down by giving the employees a great deal more skin in the game: The median single-employee deductible increased to $1,500 this year, from $1,000 last year.

Related: EBRI: High deductibles make patients talk

The UBA survey picture is comparable to the HealthCare.gov premium picture. (Image: CMS)

The UBA survey picture is comparable to the HealthCare.gov premium picture. (Image: CMS)

3. Group health pricing trends look like HealthCare.gov individual and family coverage pricing trends.

Insurers have expressed dismay about individual Affordable Care Act public exchange plan claim trends in recent months.

But, when it comes to pricing and deductible trends, the UBA figures for 2016 look comparable to U.S. Department of Health and Human Services figures for the individual plans that insurers sold through the HHS HealthCare.gov exchange enrollment system for 2016.

At HealthCare.gov, premiums averaged $396 per month per enrollee, up 5.9 percent from the 2015 average, according to an HHS report.

The enrollees paid an average of $106 per month for the exchange plan coverage out of pocket, or about 1 percent more than they paid for exchange coverage in 2015.

The government is paying an average of 73 percent of the premiums through the ACA premium tax credit subsidy system, up from 72 percent in 2015.

This year, the typical individual deductible is between $1,000 and $1,500 for gold plan coverage, and about $3,000 for silver plan coverage, according to analysts at the Commonwealth Fund.

Related:

HHS analysts: Average HealthCare.gov plan premium rose 8.8 percent

UBA Finds Rising Health Account Enrollment

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