New York Working Families Hit with 50% Increase in Health Coverage Costs Since 2001

Employers Support Public Programs to Help Make Coverage Affordable

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New York City, May 10, 2004—New Yorkers' annual health insurance premiums jumped an average of $1,670 for family coverage between 2001 and 2003, and employers are asking workers to pay a larger share of the bill, according to a new report from The Commonwealth Fund. The premium paid by employees for family coverage increased 50% between 2001 and 2003. In 2003, families paid 23% of the premium, an average of $2,100 a year, compared to 17% of the premium, or $1,400 a year in 2001. The annual average premium for family coverage in New York State is $9,612. The trend of higher health care costs for New York employees is likely to continue: two of five (42%) employers in New York said they were likely to increase the amount workers pay in the next year, raising concerns about increasing numbers of uninsured, particularly among low-wage workers who might not be able to afford higher premiums. chart

Employer-Sponsored Health Insurance in New York, by Jennifer Edwards and Sabrina How at The Commonwealth Fund and Heidi Whitmore, Jon Gabel, and colleagues at the Health Research and Educational Trust (HRET), is based on interviews with employee benefit and human resource managers of employers in New York State. "Employers in New York believe that health benefits are an important way to attract and keep a high-quality, healthy workforce but are feeling the pressures of rising costs," said Karen Davis, president of The Commonwealth Fund. "Among businesses in New York there is strong support for finding new ways to keep coverage available and affordable." Many employers are unfamiliar with, but express interest in programs that could help employees afford coverage, such as Healthy New York, which makes low-cost private insurance available to small firms with low-wage workers, and Health Pass, a purchasing cooperative for small employers. A majority (62%) of employers with a predominantly low-wage workforce said they would be somewhat or very interested in subsidizing their employees' participation in two other programs, Family Health Plus or Child Health Plus. Employees are also facing higher deductibles for health care services than they have in the past, and face longer waiting periods before their health benefits take effect. Two of five (39%) New York employers require waiting periods of three months or more before employers become eligible for benefits, compared with one-fourth (27%) in 2001. In 2003, just one-fifth (19%) of workers worked for firms that provided coverage immediately, compared with one-third (33%) in 2001. The proportion of firms that offer their employees health insurance remains unchanged since 2001. Among the firms not offering coverage at all, 85% say they do not because of the high costs. The Commonwealth Fund/HRET Survey of Employer-Sponsored Health Benefits in New York (2003) was a joint effort of The Commonwealth Fund and the Health Research and Educational Trust (HRET). The Commonwealth Fund and HRET conducted virtually the same survey in 2001, thereby permitting an examination of recent changes in the New York health insurance marketplace. Both surveys were weighted to data on New York firms collected by the U.S. Census. Weights from 2001 were recalculated to match the change in the post-stratification methodology implemented with the 2003 survey. Therefore, the 2001 data reported here will differ slightly from the 2001 data reported previously. The survey consisted of telephone interviews with a random sample of 576 employee benefit and human resource managers of employers in New York State. HRET drew its sample from a list of businesses collected by Dun & Bradstreet of the nation's private and public employers with three or more workers. To increase precision, HRET stratified the sample by industry and the number of workers in the firm. Interviews were conducted from May to October 2003. The sampling method was the same as in 2001, but the same firms were not chosen.

Publication Details

Publication Date: May 12, 2004
Related Topics
Health Care Coverage

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