All signs point to a significant increase in health care costs in the employer market next year, which will lead to larger-than-usual increases in insurance premiums.
Important reasons: Employers will have to choose between being hurt or passing the additional costs on to their employees. This is a particularly difficult decision in a tight labor market.
News promotion: According to a recent Willis Towers Watson survey, 7 in 10 employers expect their health insurance costs to increase moderately to significantly over the next three years.
- WTW’s Jeff Levin-Scherz said, “The scary reality is that while they’re trying to increase affordability, the actual total cost is higher than expected.
- More than half of survey respondents said they plan to address rising costs with programs or vendors that reduce their total spending. Fewer than 1 in 4 she said businesses would pass costs on to employees by increasing insurance premiums, and 14 percent said they would pass costs through out-of-pocket expenses.
- However, in the current working environment, employees may not tolerate premium increases. Bloomberg reported that hundreds of New Jersey officials held a rally last week to demand that he postpone a vote on a bill that would raise insurance premiums by more than 20% next year.
Line spacing: One reason health care costs haven’t risen in line with general inflation this year is that payers enter into price agreements (often multiyear) with providers, drug makers, and medical device makers. It’s for
- This means that potential inflation in labor and production costs will not be immediately reflected in payout rates or subsequent premiums.
- The hospital group is telling anyone who asks how much its costs have risen in the last few years.
- “There are signs everywhere that hospital prices are going up, and employer-provided health insurance premiums will go up next year,” said Larry Levitt of the Kaiser Family Foundation. “The health care sector has been somewhat insulated from the inflation that has hit the rest of the economy, but it probably won’t last very long.”
- Given the structure of the contract, these rate hikes could be spread out over several years.
Big picture: For more than a decade, employers have overwhelmingly responded to rising health insurance premiums by offering plans with higher deductibles and copays.
- That means health insurance is getting more expensive, even for Americans who get insurance through their jobs.
- But as more and more insured Americans struggle to pay their medical bills, there are signs that employers are maxing out their ability to pass costs on to workers.
- Employers are currently struggling to attract and retain workers. That means workers may be even more reluctant to devalue the health benefits they provide.
What we see: Whether employer premium hikes will be politically weaponized ahead of the midterm elections.
- There are signs that Republicans will try to tie them to overall inflation, which Republicans see as a winning attack on Democrats.
- “Food, housing and even health insurance prices are very high, but the Biden administration last month offered generous subsidies to the wealthy, ranging from electric cars to Obamacare,” said the House methodology. Ranked Texas’ Kevin Brady said recently.
Yes, but: If Congress doesn’t extend the boost to subsidies, it may not be as easy to link Democrats to higher workplace compensation rates as the cost of the Affordable Care Act will go up.
- “The ACA is the result of Democratic domestic policy over the last decade, and Republicans would have pointed to the huge premium increases as a failure of Obamacare,” Levitt said. “Neither Democrats nor Republicans are making serious moves to improve the affordability of people receiving employer health insurance benefits.”