The bad news is that standard family health insurance premiums increased once again during 2012, but on a slightly more positive note the speed at which the costs incremented was the lowest on record.
According to the results of a new survey published this Tuesday, the cost of insuring the average family of four by way of an employer-sponsored policy now rests at $15,645 – an increase of 4% compared to the year before. However, the finding from the study carried out by the Kaiser Family Foundation and the Health Research & Educational Trust also highlight the fact that last year’s figure was a rather depressing 9% higher than the figure recorded in 2010.
Or in other words health cover is getting more expensive, but nowhere near as fast as expected.
“These are strikingly low numbers to those of us who have been studying health costs for a long time,” according to the researchers behind the study. “A 4% increase in health premiums is good news.”
As far as the reasons behind the slower growth in premiums go, the primary contributory factor is thought to be generally sluggish economic recovery. When the US public as a whole doesn’t have a great deal of financial security – as has been the case over the last few years – people become less inclined to shell out for their essential medical cover.
And then there’s also the growing popularity of high-deductible plans which usually lead to policy holders being responsible for much higher medical bills.
“Health care use and the economy have always been closely tied,” the researchers stated. “Our sense is that the recession and slow recovery are responsible for much of the recent health spending and premium trends.”
Despite what could be looked at as at least modest improvement, medical bills and general healthcare coverage still exist as huge burdens for the average American household. On average, the pace at which family medical premiums are increasing in cost is significantly greater than both average wages increments and the general rate of inflation.
Over the course of the last 10 years, family medical cover has increased in cost by approximately 97%, which is triple the pace of both national wage increases and inflation.
Compounding the issue further is the way in which low-income families continue to be hit the hardest by higher premiums. For example, in a company where more than 35% of employees are on salaries below $24,000, these lower-income workers are subject to premiums $1,000 higher on average than those working for companies where $55,000 salaries are paid to the same 35% of workers.
“Firms with many lower-wage workers ask employees to pay more out of pocket, even though the coverage itself tends to be less comprehensive,” the research firm stated to clarify the findings of the study.
The one modest silver lining that comes from the study is the prediction of the researchers that two-figure upticks in premiums for the average family appear to have been ruled out for the imminent future at least.