Employer confidence to offer health benefits declines

Only one in four employers are confident they will offer active employees health care benefits by 2022. This is a marked decline from 2007, when three out of four employers were equally confident, according to a new report.

Colonial Life Insurance Company discloses this finding in a white paper, "Employee Benefits: Are You Getting Your Money's Worth." The report cites the latest data from Colonial Life’s proprietary research, national research organizations and government resources to examine the importance of benefits communication in helping employers maximize the investment they make in employee benefits.

Employer-sponsored insurance remains the leading source of health insurance in America, covering 56 percent of individuals under age 65. Although a flat economy slowed the rate of cost growth, premiums for employer sponsored heath insurance increased 97 percent between 2002 and 2012, outpacing worker wage increases (which rose 33 percent) and inflation (up 28 percent) during the same decade, the report shows.

Although total premium costs per employee increased just over 5 percent between 2011 and 2012, employees’ share increased 8.7 percent during the same period, the white paper adds. Employees shouldered this increase in premiums despite nearly stagnant wages: By the end of 2012, employees contributed 42 percent more for health care premiums than they did in 2007.

Employees also are paying more in out-of-pocket costs: More than a third of workers were enrolled in employer-sponsored health plans with an annual deductible of at least $1,000 in 2012, the paper reveals. That's up significantly from the 10 percent who reported deductibles in this range in 2006. In addition, almost 75 percent of workers with employer-based coverage paid a fixed co-pay for provider services each time they visited a doctor or used hospital services.

The paper adds that more than four out of five employers say they anticipate increasing the share of premiums paid by employees for the next three years.

The paper indicates that employee benefits have taken on more importance since the recession.

Eighty-two percent of employees say they are more interested in knowing what their insurance benefits cover and how they work. And 74 percent say they are more aware of what benefits they have — and do not have — at work.

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