Health Benefits Survey Demonstrates Importance of Health Insurance Reform in 2020 Election Cycle

October 6, 2019

The 2019 Kaiser Family Foundation Employer Health Benefits Survey results revealed significant rises in annual premiums, setting the context for the role of health insurance reform during the 2020 election cycle.

The 2019 Kaiser Family Foundation Employer Health Benefits Survey results revealed significant increases in annual premiums, setting the context for the role of health insurance reform during the 2020 election cycle.

The survey involved a total of 9972 firms, including private firms and nonfederal government employers with at least 3 employees. The survey included questions for benefit managers about their firm’s largest health maintenance organization, preferred provider organization, point-of-service plan, and high-deductible health plan with a savings option.

“Employer-sponsored health insurance is the largest source of coverage in the United States, covering about 153 million nonelderly people,” noted the authors. “As in past years, the survey asked firms about eligibility for and enrollment in their health benefits programs, as well as about the characteristics of up to four of their largest health plans."

The results revealed that in 2019 the average annual premium for single coverage rose 4% to $7188, while the average annual premium for family coverage rose 5% to $20,576. Additionally, covered workers contributed to 18% of the cost for single coverage and 30% of the cost for family coverage, on average, according to the results.

The survey results also demonstrated that 57% of firms offered health benefits to at least some of their workers, while some larger firms found that take-up dropped due to the elimination of the individual mandate policy.

“Given this relative stability in premium growth and coverage, the vibrant public debate about whether the United States needs a public insurance program to replace or be an alternative to private coverage might come as a surprise,” the authors said. “At the time of this writing, every leading Democratic candidate in the 2020 presidential primary race was supporting some type of public program that would, or could, enroll a substantial share of the nonelderly who currently have employer-based coverage.”

The authors concluded that concerns about affordability are likely to continue, considering that employer plans are unlikely to become more generous. Therefore, if there is a high-profile health reform debate, affordability for those with employer coverage may become a new focus, according to the researchers.

Reference

Claxton G, Rae M, Damico A, et al. Health Benefits In 2019: Premiums Inch Higher, Employers Respond To Federal Policy [published October 2019]. Health Affairs. doi:10.1377/hlthaff.2019.01026