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Shrinking private health care insurance coverage

As costs have gone way up for private health care insurance over the last decade, 12.6 million Americans have fallen off employer-based plans (the main form of private insurance, covering close to half the population).   The percentage of employers offering health insurance fell from 68% to 60% according to data in a new report from Kaiser.   

But the coverage provided by employer-based private insurance  has also shrunk -- even as premiums increased 113% over the last decade.  

Deductibles have sharply increased.   In 2011, 31% of employees have deductibles of $1,000 or over.  That is up from 10% in 2006.  Even 22% of workers at large firms now have deductibles of $1,000 or more, up from just 6% in 2006. 

About three-in-four covered workers pay a copayment (a fixed dollar payment) for a visit to a primary care physician or a specialist physician, in addition to any general annual deductible.  Most workers also face additional cost sharing for a hospital admission or an outpatient surgery episode. 

Indeed, there are many other forms of extra costs.  Over three-quarters of covered workers are in plans with three or more tiers of cost sharing.

“Without any real national discussion or debate, there’s a quiet revolution going on in what we call health insurance in this country,”  Drew Altman, president of the Kaiser told the Washington Post.  “Health insurance is becoming less and less comprehensive. . . . And we expect that trend to continue.”

What's more, the workers' share of the health insurance premiums have increased much more rapidly than the employers' share (131% versus 108% over the last ten years for family coverage).   The average worker's payment has increased from $1,787 (U.S.) annually to $4,129. 

Nearly 70 percent of Americans report being worried about having to pay more for health care or health insurance. Almost a third are “very worried.”


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