Virginians pay more for family health coverage

Fewer Virginians are receiving health insurance coverage through their employers and those who are pay significantly more than a decade ago. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, a New Jersey-based health advocacy group, released a new report Thursday that showed that the number of Virginia residents receiving health insurance through their employers — both government and private — dropped 10 percent over the past decade.

The decline in employer-sponsored insurance, ESI, is part of a national trend. According to the report, a combination of factors contributed to the general decline in employer-based coverage, including lower employment levels, fewer employers offering health coverage, and fewer eligible employees opting for the coverage. Still, a majority — 66 percent — of Virginia residents under the age of 65, receive health coverage through an employer.

"They have a higher share of employer-sponsored insurance than the national average," said Julie Sonier, deputy director of the State Health Access Data Assistance Center at the University of Minnesota, which conducted the study. "Variations in the economic base, the concentration of large employers, the income level all affect people's ability and willingness to sign up for coverage."

On most other measures reported, Virginia fell near the middle of the pack — with one notable exception. Virginia employees pay a significantly higher percentage for family coverage than others, with an average contribution of 31.4 percent of the premium cost. This compares to a national norm of 26.6 percent. By contrast, at 22.2 percent, the typical employee contribution for individual coverage in Virginia remains closer to the national average of 20.8 percent, which has remained stable over the decade.

Nationally, the average annual premium for an individual with ESI more than doubled between 2000 and 2010, growing from $2,490 to $5,081. In Virginia, the average premium remained marginally lower, rising from $2,391 to $4,961, but increased at a slightly higher rate. Over the same decade, the average total premium for family coverage jumped 125 percent, from $6,415 to $14,447. Virginia again mirrored the national trend, with an increase of 127 percent taking the family premium from $6,314 to $14,365.

Across the country, the jump in total premium cost translated into an average annual payment of $1,056 by an employee for individual coverage and $3,842 for a family. In Virginia, those costs were $1,101 and $4,511.

Despite the drop in employer-sponsored insurance, the report indicated that it "is expected to continue to be a major source of coverage even after 2014, when the Affordable Care Act's (ACA's) Medicaid expansion and subsidies for the purchase of private coverage through health insurance exchanges will take effect."

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