News Analysis: Martha Bebinger on Latest Insurance Stats

More on those new Kaiser numbers on health insurance costs:
WBUR’s Martha Bebinger, who has covered Massachusetts health care for five years, just attended the Kaiser Family Foundation press teleconference about these new figures.
Q: Martha, what struck you about these latest numbers?
A: Three things:
First, Drew Altman, the president of the foundation, says this is the first time he’s seen employers shift the entire cost of the increase to workers.
In other words, employers continue to pay roughly the same contributions they’d been making, but all of the increase went to workers either in the form of a greater share of the premium or in some other out-of-pocket expense like a co-payment. Altman believes that’s reflecting the depth of the recession and employers trying to save jobs.

Second, one of the researchers commented that only six percent of employers even reviewed health care performance data. And only half of that six percent made a decision based on it. So it’s all about price, not whether you, say, gave asthma patients the best maintenance.
And third, PPO plans — those with no gatekeeper, no referral needed — continue to dominate the market, with 58 percent nationally. But the type of coverage increasing the fastest is the high-deductible plan, with deductibles of $1,000 or $2,000. Those went from 8 percent to 13 percent.
Q: And what does all this mean for Massachusetts?
A: The study didn’t break out Massachusetts. Typically, health insurance costs have grown faster in Massachusetts than the national average, but we don’t know if that’s the case because this study had only national figures. We expect to hear more about that later this month.

This program aired on September 2, 2010. The audio for this program is not available.

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Carey Goldberg Editor, CommonHealth
Carey Goldberg is the editor of WBUR's CommonHealth section.



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