We all know that the healhcare industry is in flux right now and for Californians, it is even more uncertain. The annual California Employer Health Benefits Survey was released last Wednesday by the California HealthCare Foundation, a research and grant-making nonprofit organization. Among the findings, it seems fewer California companies offered their workers health insurance last year, and the ones that did charged employees more for their coverage.
A recent article from the Los Angeles Times by Marc Lifsher reports the findings and what the survey means for California Healthcare.
January 04, 2012|By Marc Lifsher, Los Angeles Times
According to the survey, premiums for employer health insurance plans have risen 153.5% since 2002, a rate that’s more than five times the increase in California’s inflation rate.
In the last two years alone, the proportion of state employers offering coverage to workers fell to 63% from 73%, the survey said.
“This is a departure from previous years and could be an early sign of future changes,” the foundation report noted in commentary on data collected between July and October 2011 in interviews with 770 private firm benefit managers.
The steady rise in costs during a prolonged economic downturn contributed to decisions by about a quarter of employers to either reduce benefits or increase cost sharing for employees in 2011. A slightly smaller percentage, 22%, opted to make workers pay more of the share of the higher premiums.
Health insurance is expected to take even more money out of workers’ pockets this year. The survey indicated that 36% of California firms said they were either “very” or somewhat” likely to raise the amount that their staff paid in premiums in 2012.
Rising costs and shrinking coverage are accelerating, said Anthony Wright, executive director of Health Access California, a group that advocates for expanded health insurance coverage.
“They are frankly multi-decade trends,” he said. “What is notable is that this is more significant than usual.”
What’s been a “gradual erosion of employer-based coverage in good years” has evolved into “a steep one in bad years,” Wright said. “To be down to 63% [of California companies offering coverage] is huge. It used to be up over 80%.”
Patrick Johnston, president of the California Assn. of Health Plans, blamed the rising premiums on expensive technology, the spread of chronic disease and an aging population, among other factors. Johnston’s organization represents 40 California health plans that cover 21 million people.
What’s more, he noted that years of cutting reimbursements to doctors and hospitals by the government-run Medi-Cal program have created a “cost shift” that has to be “made up in negotiations for higher rates for commercial payers such as employers.”
To read the rest of this article, go to http://articles.latimes.com/2012/jan/04/business/la-fi-california-health-care-costs-20120105