Massachusetts is once again the most expensive state in the nation to buy health insurance, according to a new study that draws a sobering portrait of the damage that rising medical premiums are doing to businesses and families.
The report released today by the non-profit Commonwealth Fund finds that Massachusetts checked in with the highest average cost for a family health insurance premium during 2011 - $16,953. Average premiums in the five highest states of Massachusetts, New Hampshire, District of Columbia, New York and Vermont were 30 percent above premiums in the lowest-cost states.
Commonwealth Fund researchers found that the cost of health insurance rose 65 percent nationally from 2003 through 2011, three times the rate of wage growth. The result is that consumers in 35 states now face premiums that equal more than 20 percent of their incomes, with Massachusetts customers falling in the range of 17 and 19.9 percent.
“The report confirms the scope of the challenge we face in Massachusetts to preserve a health care system that employers and citizens can afford,” said Richard C. Lord, President of AIM and board member of a new commission that will regulate the state's health care system and monitor limits on the growth of health-care costs.
“Massachusetts has a new health care cost control law, but everyone understands how complex it will be to solve this problem.”
The cost-containment law limits the increase in medical spending in Massachusetts to a level equal to overall economic growth from 2013 until 2017. The spending growth target will drop to 0.5 percentage points below gross state product from 2018-2022 before returning to the economic growth benchmark in 2023 and beyond.
Massachusetts returned to the top spot on the Commonwealth Fund list of expensive health states after dropping to ninth in 2010.
Among the findings of the Commonwealth Fund report:
- Average health insurance premiums for employer-sponsored family coverage reached $15,022 in 2011 across states, up by an average of 62 percent since 2003.
- If insurance pre¬miums for employer-sponsored health plans in each state continue to grow at the average annual rate for 2003–2011, the average premium for family coverage would rise to $24,740 by 2020, an increase of 65 per¬cent from 2011.
- Eighty percent of the nation’s population now lives in states where total premiums are equal to or exceed 20 percent or more of median incomes.
- The employee share of employer-sponsored health insurance averaged 26 percent for family coverage and 21 percent for employee-only coverage across states in 2011—an increase in most states compared with 2003. Combined with rising premiums, the result was an 80 percent increase in the annual costs of the employees’ share for a single-person plan and a 74 percent increase in employee costs for a family plan from 2003 to 2011.
- Estimated family premiums by 2020 will top $27,000 in Massachusetts at current rates of growth.
“In effect, premium growth has been consuming resources that employers might otherwise have earmarked for salary or wage increases, for other benefits, or for hiring additional workers. Such a rapid increase in the cost of employer-sponsored health benefits has forced difficult choices at workplaces across the country,” the study concludes.
It also underscores the importance of AIM’s efforts to help employers and their workers become informed consumers of health care.
“Broad evidence of poorly coordinated care, duplicative services, and administrative waste, as well as rising prices charged to those privately insured, signal that greater efforts are needed to slow cost growth in both private and public insurance markets. Such efforts will require all payers, public and private, to join together to achieve better value—that is, higher quality at lower costs,” the study said.