Survey finds NH employees pay fifth-lowest health premium percentage

Average 18% cost reported in national report

Employees in New Hampshire paid an average 18 percent of the total cost of their healthcare premium in 2018, the fifth-lowest percentage in the country, according to the Mercer National Survey of Employer-Sponsored Health Plans.

The survey, released Tuesday, found that in New England, employees contributed an average 24 percent and nationwide they contributed an average 25 percent, or $3,200 per employee, not including out-of-pocket expenses like deductibles and co-pays. In 2017, New Hampshire was also at 25 percent.

New Hampshire employers said they had expected that overall costs would rise 3.7 percent in 2018, but they limited the increase to 2.4 percent by making changes to plan design or switching vendors. That fits in with nationwide trends. The average total health benefit cost per employee rose by 3.6 percent in 2018.

Over the last five years following implementation of the Affordable Care Act, costs have gone up 3.3 percent nationally – more than inflation, but better than the 5.7 percent annual increase seen in the decade before the ACA.

Costs increased more among smaller employers (10 to 499 employees), for whom they rose 5.4 percent in 2018 while larger employers held costs to 3.2 percent. Prescription drugs were the biggest cost factor. Among larger employers, drugs benefits went up 7 percent, while the cost for specialty dugs rose by about 12 percent.

One way employers, particularly small employers, are coping with increased premiums is with high-deductibles plans, which cost employers 13 percent less than a traditional preferred provider organization (PPO) plan.

In New Hampshire, 29 percent of all employees covered in respondents’ health plans are enrolled in PPO plans, 26 percent in HMOs and 45 percent in high-deductible plans. The median PPO deductible in New Hampshire is $650, less than half the national median deductible of $1,500, but the average deductible in high-deductible plans is much higher.

Another study, from the University of Minnesota’s State Health Access Data Assistance Center, found that the Granite State had the highest average family deductible ($4,381) and the second-highest individual deductible ($2,303), just $2 below Maine. In 2016, New Hampshire had the highest average individual deductible as well.

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