By Julie Appleby, Kaiser Health News
Health insurance premiums rose 4 percent for family coverage this year, well below last year’s increase and half the 8 percent average of the previous decade -– largely because people used less health care in an uncertain economy.
Family plan premiums hit $15,745 on average, while premiums for single employees rose to $5,615, according to a survey of employers released Tuesday by the Kaiser Family Foundation and the Health Research & Educational Trust. (KHN is an editorially independent program of the foundation.)
"We’re seeing people make more consumer-oriented decisions, going for less expensive treatments or deferring surgery," said Julie Stone, senior consultant at Towers Watson, an employer benefit consulting firm that does its own survey. Still, hospitals and other medical providers "are not agreeing" to lower their prices, she said.
Although the increase is less than half last year's 9 percent spike, the Kaiser foundation’s survey results will likely be seen through the prism of election-year politics. Premium increases are a big pocketbook issue for individuals and small businesses -- something both sides have used to justify their positions on the 2010 health law. Democrats have said the federal health law is working to slow spending growth, while Republicans contend it will increase costs.