My current employer, a Fortune 500 firm, recently released their employee contribution rates (i.e health insurance premiums) for it’s employees and once again rates are rising. Their justification is that health care costs are going up, but in reality the bigger driver of costs is that my less than charitable employer is paying less of the coverage premium and shifting more of the burden on to it’s employees.
Private health insurance is still much more expensive, so I don’t really have any choice but to accept the circa 5% premium increase for my family health plan.
Furthermore my premium increases is line with the 5.5% rise for large employer-sponsored health plans based on a recent PwC industry report, so I guess I cannot complain too much. Still the 5% increase, equivalent to about $500 for the year, means a few less extravagances in the year ahead. Or chalk it down to another side effect of higher inflation.
Here are some other changes hat impacted my family and likely will affect most American families with health insurance:
Health Care Spending Account (HCSA) or Flexible Spending Accounts (FSA) contribution maximum reduced by 2,500. The limit on pre-tax contributions to FSA or HCSA will be reduced from $5,000 to $2,500 per year. Because of this regulatory change, all employees will have to re-elect for participation during Annual Enrollment. If no action is taken, employees will not contribute to a HCSA — even if you contributed to one last year.
Expansion of women’s preventive health services coverage. Additional preventive care services for women will be covered at 100 percent thanks to health care law changes. These services include:
- Well-woman visits (annual visit and follow-up visits as appropriate)
- Gestational diabetes screening
- Human papilloma virus testing for women age 30 or older
- Counseling for sexually transmitted infections
- Counseling and screening for human immune-deficiency virus
- Generic, oral contraceptive methods and counseling
- Breastfeeding support, supplies, and counseling
- Domestic violence screening and counseling.
Health care cost reporting on W-2. The cost of your employer-sponsored health coverage will be reported on your Form W-2, which will be mailed to you in early in the year.
More focus on wellness or get fit programs. Most employer sponsored plans now offer some kind of monetary discount if plan participants partake in some kind of fitness program or demonstrate they are taking actions to stay in shape (normally determined through a questionnaire).
The reason is simple: healthy people are less likely to get seriously sick and so the insurance company has to pay out less. Employers, benefit from healthy employees due to higher productivity (less sick days for example) and it also decreases the amount of money they spend on health coverage.
So if you can take advantage of these programs, do so. It is good for your well-being, employer and your wallet.
Summaries of Benefits and Coverage (SBCs). As mandated under Health Care Reform, your employers need to provide you with a SBC for each offered medical plan option.
An SBC is a snapshot of medical plan provisions, in a government-prescribed format. SBCs do not replace Summary Plan Descriptions, which are more detailed plan descriptions.
The most important thing in the long term, is to educate yourself about health insurance options and all the key terminology/concepts.
Not only will it save you money in choosing the best option, it will help during the year when dealing with doctors, hospitals and billing staff when trying to figure how much you will or should pay for medical services.
A good place to start is the educational information offered by your company and their insurer – online or via open enrollment meetings.