Health costs push, and pull, supplemental policy sales

Analysts find the impact of the ACA on medical bills may have bottomed out in 2015

The percentage of workers who blamed medical bills for cutting their retirement plan contributions fell to a 10-year low in 2015, but it increased this year, analysts say. (Photo: Thinkstock) The percentage of workers who blamed medical bills for cutting their retirement plan contributions fell to a 10-year low in 2015, but it increased this year, analysts say. (Photo: Thinkstock)

Rising health care costs may hurt sales of some insurance products, and help sales of others.

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Analysts at the Washington-based Employee Benefit Research Institute and Washington-based Greenwald & Associates have reported that finding in a summary of results from a survey of about 1,500 U.S. workers ages 21 through 64.

Survey teams interviewed the participants in June.

About 21 percent of the workers who reported facing a health cost burden increase said they had to drop some insurance products other than major medical coverage this year. That's up from 15 percent last year.

But the percentage who said they bought "additional insurance to help with expenses" increased to 11 percent, from 5 percent.

EBRI and Greenwald conducted the survey to analyze the overall performance of the U.S. health benefits system.

The analysts found signs that Affordable Care Act changes, a rebound in the economy or both may have reduced the health care cost burden on workers between 2006 and 2015, but that improvements may have stalled this year.

In 2015, for example, just 50 percent of the privately insured adults reported an increase in either their health insurance premiums or the amounts they spent on deductibles, co-payments and coinsurance.

The percentage of privately insured workers who reported an increase in the health care cost burden was down from 59 percent in 2014, and it was the lowest EBRI and Greenwald had reported since 2006.

In June this year, the percentage of privately insured adults who reported an increase in the health care cost burden held steady at 50 percent.

The analysts also found that many other health care cost burden indicators seem to have bottomed out last year or this year.

One indicator is the percentage of workers who said they have experienced a health care cost increase and are responding by skipping doses of prescribed medications because of cost worries.

That indicator fell to 19 percent in 2015, from 25 percent in 2014. That 19 percent drug-skipping rate was the lowest EBRI and Greenwald had reported since at least 2006. But the drug-skipping rate jumped back up to 24 percent this year. 

Related:

Unum pays 7.7 percent more comp for U.S. voluntary sales

2016 outlook: Health products other than major medical

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