Health insurance fees rise again, despite new US law

US employers expect health insurance costs to rise an average 8.9% next year, up from an average 7% this year, according to a survey of 75 large employers by the National Business Group on Health, Washington, DC.

The new US healthcare-reform law is forcing some employers to provide additional coverage. 70% will have to remove limits on lifetime insurance spending per employee; 40% will have to change annual benefit limits; and 13% will have to start covering employees' children even if they have expensive "pre-existing conditions," according to the report.

A majority of employers plan to boost the premiums employees pay; nearly half plan to raise employee co-pays and deductibles; and many are trying to get workers to exercise more, stop smoking, and eat less fatty foods, according to a statement by Joe DiBella, executive vice president at South Jersey-based Conner Strong, who sent me the report: "Plan-design changes and cost-shifting will only go so far... Incentives and rewards (for) a healthier workforce" are a better way to cut long-term costs.

Employers aren't the only ones paying higher rates. Retired Philadelphia school administrator and World War II veteran Phil Bogdonoff, 86, of Cinnaminson, tells me MetLife Longterm Care boosted his and his wife's longterm-care premium 30% this year, to over $4,000, after 17 years with no increases except those he chose to boost his coverage benefit in prior years.

"We prepared for old age, and we hoped we'll never have to use this policy," only to watch the price goes up as he got "closer" to possibly needing it some day, Bogdonoff told me. He complained to the New Jersey insurance department, and was told MetLife "has been paying out more than they put in," so the increase was approved. "But a 30% shove is a little much," he concluded. No immediate comment from MetLife.