2017 Group Health Plan Trends

This annual group health plan survey provides a detailed look at trends in employer-sponsored health coverage including premiums, employee contributions, cost-sharing provisions, and employer practices. The 2017 survey from the Kaiser Family Foundation and the Health Research & Educational Trust included more than 2,100 group health plan interviews with non-federal public and private firms. The following infographic provides a summary of the findings.

2017 Employer Health Plan Survey Results.png


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The market for employer-sponsored health benefits continues along with no big changes in 2017. Premium increases are modest and there is no appreciable change in cost sharing or enrollment by type of group health plan. Employers continue to invest in health promotion and wellness approaches, including building incentives around programs that collect information about employee health and lifestyles.

Despite continuing economic improvement, with lower rates of unemployment, and the ACA employer mandate, there are no signs that the long-term declines in the offer and coverage rates are reversing. Even with modest premium growth, offer rates for small firms remain much lower than those for large firms, and the percentage of workers covered at work remains at 62%. 

We continue to see significant variation around the average premiums and contribution amounts, particularly for small businesses. A meaningful share of covered workers in small firms must pay a substantial share of the cost of family coverage, raising the question of whether this is a viable source of coverage for the dependents of these workers.

The debate about the future of the ACA has focused on the provisions that extended coverage in the non-group market and Medicaid, with the provisions affecting employer-sponsored coverage receiving relatively little attention. Employers generally appear to have adapted to ACA provisions without significant disruption, including the employer requirement to offer coverage or pay a penalty, the provisions requiring preventive care be covered without cost sharing, and that non-grandfathered plans have an out-of-pocket limit on cost sharing. Even if repeal and replace efforts ultimately succeed, the impacts on the group market will likely be relatively small: for example, some employers may reduce offers of coverage to some of their lower-paid employees or may reduce the number of preventive services available without cost sharing; but the larger metrics measuring costs and coverage are unlikely to change in any significant way.

One policy that could affect the market over the next couple of years is the high-cost plan tax, also known as the Cadillac tax. In previous surveys, employers reported increasing cost sharing and making other changes in anticipation of the high-cost plan tax taking effect in 2018. With the effective date of the tax delayed until 2020 (and with the apparent widespread Congressional support for further delay), the pressure for employers with more expensive plans to take actions to reduce their cost seems to have abated. This could change abruptly, however, if the tax is not further delayed in the near future.

Source: The Kaiser Family Foundation and Health Research & Educational Trust

To view the full group health plan survey, visit this page to fill out a form and download it.


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