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Report: Fewer Kansans get insurance through employers

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Thursday, April 11, 2013, at 10:34 a.m.
  • Updated Friday, April 12, 2013, at 6:40 a.m.

The number of Kansans obtaining insurance through employers has declined, according to a new report from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

The report shows that in 2011, about 64 percent of state residents got insurance through a job, compared with 73.9 percent in 2000.

There are also fewer employers offering insurance in Kansas, from 58.1 percent in 2000 to 54.3 percent in 2011, according to the report.

Wichita Independent Business Association President Tim Witsman said the figures aren’t surprising, and he suspects the trend will continue if health care costs continue to rise.

“The more costly it is, the less ability there is to pay,” Witsman said. “We try to get companies to try to look more at the whole value component and what’s going to get people healthier, but the fact is, the first thing they look at is cost.”

The report says the cost of employer-sponsored insurance annual premiums for individuals has risen in Kansas from $2,395 in 2000 to $4,857 in 2011. Family premiums increased from $6,074 to $13,960.

Those figures could be tied to a decrease in the percentage of dependents covered, said Karen Vines, vice president for employee benefits, governance and compliance at IMA Inc., a retail insurance broker.

In 2000, of the 74 percent of people who had insurance through a job, 39 percent were dependents and 35 percent were policyholders. In 2011, of the 64 percent that had insurance through a job, 33 percent were dependents and 31 percent were policyholders.

Coverage of dependent children up to 18 years old decreased from 71 percent in 2000 to 59 percent in 2011, the report says.

“We’re seeing more of a focus on employee participation and more of a challenge covering dependents as a result of continuing escalation in costs where premiums continue to trend upward,” Vines said.

“Employers are going to continue to be challenged to bring balance, and I think a lot of families have moved away from being able to afford bringing on dependents. Employees may still be accessing the coverage but not covering dependents to the same degree as before.”

Janet Hamous, executive director of the Wichita Business Coalition on Health Care, said her sense from speaking with area employers is that most employers don’t plan at this point to drop coverage and have employees seek insurance on the new online marketplaces, which are expected to start enrollment in October.

“What I continue to hear, and the expectation of most employers, is that for competitive reasons they will continue to offer insurance, but in terms of who pays what portion of the premium, that could change,” Hamous said.

The online marketplaces are part of the Affordable Care Act and will offer government subsidies for some citizens who meet certain financial guidelines.

“I think we’re certainly in the firestorm right now of employers navigating what’s on the horizon with 2014 under the ACA,” Vines said. And business strategies on what to offer could look very different from 2014 to 2015 as things “shake out,” she said.

The report was prepared by researchers at the University of Minnesota’s State Health Access Data Assistance Center. Researchers used data from the Annual Social and Economic Supplement of the Current Population Survey and the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey-Insurance Component.

Nationwide, the report says 47 states and the District of Columbia saw a decline in nonelderly adults with employer-sponsored insurance, with 22 states seeing a decrease of at least 10 percent. Alaska, North Dakota and Massachusetts remained stable.

The researchers said they attributed the trends to decreases in overall employment and rising premium costs, according to a news release on the report.

To view the report, which has a breakdown for each state, visit www.rwjf.org/coverage.

Reach Kelsey Ryan at 316-269-6752 or kryan@wichitaeagle.com.

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