Jul 21, 2022 - Health

Employer-sponsored premiums expected to jump 'significantly'

Illustration of a health plus peeling back revealing a hundred dollar bill on the reverse side.

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Employer-sponsored health care premiums are expected to see a larger than usual jump next year.

Why it matters: It's the latest ballooning cost expected to be passed down to the nearly 50% of Americans who get coverage through work.

State of play: There's still a lot of uncertainty around how much premiums will rise for employers compared to a typical year, when they might increase around 5% to 6%.

  • "Even in the fall, we were hearing concerns around 2023 with rate increases ranging from 10% to 12%. And we have a member who just a 12% increase in their premiums," Randa Deaton, vice president of purchaser engagement for the Purchaser Business Group on Health, told Axios.
  • "Our expectations are the prices are going to significantly increase," she said.
  • But Willis Towers Watson, a business consultancy, puts that estimate closer to between 5% and 9%.
  • "7% to 9% is definitely higher than what we've seen in prior years," said Courtney Stubblefield, insights and solutions leader for health and benefits at WTW.

The big picture: Insurers offering individual plans on the ACA markets are expected to jump 10%, Axios' Caitlin Owens and Arielle Dreher report.

What's happening: Inflation, as well as increased provider expenses, are likely to be a big factor in the prices.

  • "As some insurers and providers open up their contracts ... there's concerns some of those unit price increases could be 10%-plus and some of that could be providers wanting to recoup a little bit of lost revenue from during the pandemic," Stubblefield said.
  • Consumers' use of health services is also rising as more people schedule care they deferred during the pandemic.
  • Increased consolidation among health providers, as well as a lack of price transparency, is also contributing to the rise, Deaton said. "The reality is health care pricing is rarely based on the cost of the service. It's based on what the market can bear," she said.

What to watch: Whether employers pass all of those costs along to their workers while a pandemic is still going on and inflation is sky high.

  • "There's a real high degree of scrutiny around that," Stubblefield said. "There's obviously an immediate tension between the need to have an affordable plan and make it accessible to everyone in the population and then manage these cost pressures."
  • "That's the needle employers need to thread and it's a difficult equation," she said."
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