Health insurance premiums rise 4% for family plans and 5% for individual plans in 2013, outpacing inflation and wage growth.

By Noam N. Levey and Marina Villeneuve
August 20, 2013, 6:45 p.m.

WASHINGTON — American workers and their employers saw another rise in health insurance premiums this year, as the total cost of employer-provided health benefits ticked up 4% for family plans and 5% for individual plans, according to a closely watched national survey.

The 2013 increases are lower than in many previous years, undercutting claims by critics of President Obama’s health law that the 2010 legislation is dramatically driving up costs.

Nor is there much evidence that many employers are dropping coverage — 57% of firms with at least three employees offered health benefits in 2013, according to the report by the nonprofit Kaiser Family Foundation and the Health Research & Educational Trust, an affiliate of the American Hospital Assn.

The report’s authors noted that the share of employers providing health insurance is “statistically unchanged” from 2012, when 61% of employers offered health benefits, and 2011, when 60% of employers did so.

But as has been true in most previous years, the rise in premiums outpaced inflation and wage growth, adding to the increasing burden that healthcare costs are putting on Americans.

“It’s still three or four times the general rate of inflation,” said Helen Darling, president of the National Business Group on Health, a leading association of large employers. “We don’t consider [the rise] modest at all.”

The average total cost for a family health plan — which is split between employer and employee — hit $16,351 this year. The employee’s share of that premium was $4,565, up about 6% from 2012.

The average employer’s share of the premium, in contrast, increased just 3%, an indication that employers continue to shift more health costs onto their employees.

The survey did not measure premiums for the roughly 20 million people who buy health insurance on their own, though this group is dwarfed by the more than 150 million people who get employer-sponsored coverage.

Starting in October, Americans who do not get health benefits through their employer will have a new option. They will be able to shop for health plans on new Web-based marketplaces created by the Affordable Care Act. Low- and moderate-income consumers will qualify for federal subsidies to offset their premiums.

Obama once promised that the new law would reduce Americans’ health costs.

The Kaiser survey is the latest indication that is not happening yet. In addition to rising premiums, workers also are getting hit with more cost sharing, the survey found. For example, the average deductible for a health plan that covers only the employee reached $1,135, up from $1,097 in 2012.

Particularly hard hit are workers at small businesses, who already pay more for their health coverage than employees of large firms. Nearly a third of workers at employers with fewer than 200 employees have deductibles of at least $2,000.

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