WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. workers getting health insurance for their families through employers have seen their premiums more than double in the last decade and the trend toward higher health costs is expected to continue, according to two reports released on Tuesday.
The Kaiser Family Foundation said the average premium for a company-provided family health insurance plan rose from $5,791 in 1999 to $13,375, a 131 percent jump.
Separately, the Business Roundtable, an organization that represents large U.S. corporations, said per-employee costs will jump to $28,530 in 2019 from $10,743 currently if nothing is done.
The findings come as Democratic lawmakers push their health reform plan aimed at containing rising costs and covering the millions of Americans currently without insurance.
President Barack Obama has said the changes should build on the current U.S. model, in which most people under the age of 65 with health insurance get it through their employers.
The Kaiser study said the portion of costs born by employees grew from $1,543 on average a decade ago to $3,515 this year. Employer saw their costs shoot up too, from $4,247 in contributions in 1999 to $9,860 in 2009 on average.
“When health care costs continue to rise so much faster than overall inflation in a bad recession, workers and employers really feel the pain. That’s why we are having a health reform debate,” said Drew Altman, the foundation’s president and chief executive.
One Democratic proposal includes a public insurance plan that would rival the insurance industry.
Some critics of a public plan say it could encourage companies to stop providing health benefits, while others say employers would still want to offer benefits to attract employees.
The Business Roundtable says it wants to safeguard the coverage companies already provide while making the system more efficient.
“The (roundtable) report ... paints a very grim picture of what happens if we fail to reform the healthcare system. The cost increases are so large that the employer based system that we have today will be at serious risk,” Eastman Kodak Chairman and CEO Antonio Perez told reporters by telephone.
About 60 percent of companies offer health-care coverage in the United States, insuring 159 million non-elderly people, according to Kaiser.
Among those companies still offering health plans, 21 percent said they had reduced benefits or asked workers to pay additional costs while 15 percent said they had increased workers’ share of the insurance premium.
For 2010, companies said they also would shift more costs to workers, with 42 percent saying they would increase employees’ premiums and 39 percent saying employees would pay more for doctor visits. Thirty-seven percent said workers would have to pay more for prescription medicines.
The survey is based on information that Kaiser, along with the Health Research and Educational Trust, collected earlier this year from more than 2,000 public and private companies with at least three workers.
Kaiser Vice President Gary Claxton concedes the survey misses one big issue -- the number of employees who lost their coverage because they were fired or their company went out of business.
“It’s not clear that we got the whole picture,” he said in an interview.
Additional reporting by Donna Smith; editing by Dave Zimmerman and Tim Dobbyn
Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.