Health Insurance Premiums Rise Sharply in 2011

Health insurance premiums shot up 9 percent this year, nearly three times the rate of inflation and the most since 2005, a new study shows

This year, the annual premiums paid out for employer-sponsored programs topped $15,000, according to Kaiser Family Foundation/Health Research & Educational Trust, which conducts an annual health benefits survey.

Average health care premiums rose to $10,944 for employers and $4,129 for workers for a total of $15,073.

At a time when economic news is gloomy, the rate of payment may seem troublesome. “This year’s 9 percent increase in premiums is especially painful for workers and employers struggling through a weak recovery,” Kaiser President Drew Altman said in a statement.

The rate of increase is faster than wage hikes and general inflation, which rose 2.1 percent and 3.2 percent, respectively. The figure has risen a whopping 113 percent in the last 10 years, according to Kaiser.

“The 9 percent increase in health insurance costs will make it harder for many families and employers to afford insurance, which may lead higher increases in the number of uninsured next year,”  Leighton Ku, director of the Center for Health Policy Research at The George Washington University.

“The survey found that insurance premiums rose just about the same amount for single people — 8 percent– as the 9 percent increase for families, which suggests that this change required by the health reform law may not have played much of a role in the rising costs of insurance,” Ku continued in a statement to ABCNews.

Some good news in the survey: Thanks to health care provisions, more than 2 million young adults were added to family health insurance plans.

“The law is helping millions of young adults to obtain health coverage. In the past, many of these young adults would have lost coverage when they left home or graduated college,” Gary Claxton, a Kaister VP. said in a statement.

Additional findings from the Kaiser Study:

  • Workers-only coverage increased by 8 percent to $5,429 annually or $452 a month.
  • Some 60 percent of companies offer health insurance to workers.
  • The average copayment for in-network physician visits is $22 for primary care and $32 for specialty care.
  • The average copayment for three and four tier dug plans is $10 for generic drugs, $29 for preferred brand-name drugs, $49 for non-preferred brand-name drugs, and $91 for specialty drugs.
  • One in four large firms offer retiree health benefits in 2011. The figure is down from 32 percent in 2007.