Bringing the Economy Home

Fewer Workers Covered By Longstanding Health Insurance Plans As Law Takes Effect

Jewel Samad / AFP/Getty Images

President Barack Obama left a rally celebrating the Affordable Care Act's passage on March 23, 2010.

If you have trouble getting jazzed about health care policy, consider this: “Between 1999 and 2012, workers’ health care costs grew four times faster than their earnings,” The Atlantic reports.

The data is drawn from the Kaiser Family Foundation’s annual Employer Health Benefits survey, released this week.

The survey also includes information about how employers have responded to Affordable Care Act (ACA) requirements as they kick in.  It’s information that is worth noting in this state where implementation of the law remains particularly contentious. 

Specifically, the survey looks at so-called “grandfathered” employer-sponsored health plans, those that were in effect before the ACA’s passage in March of 2010.  In accordance with President Obama’s repeated promise that “if you like your health plan, you can keep it,” grandfathered plans are exempted from some requirements of the Affordable Care Act.  Such plans are not required to provide particular preventive services, for example.

Nationally, the fraction of workers covered by grandfathered health care plans declined over the last year, from 56 to 48 percent.  Workers in the West are more likely than average to be covered by a grandfathered plan, the Kaiser survey shows.

The key reason that fewer worker are covered by a grandfathered plan, according to Kaiser’s survey, is firms’ concern about limiting future flexibility.  Changing employee premium contributions, rising co-pays or deductibles, and changing benefits are also factors.

Most provisions of the health care law don’t take effect until 2014.  Related to that, Idaho lawmakers and stakeholders continue to weigh two major questions: whether the state should expand Medicaid eligibility, and whether it should establish its own health insurance exchange.  Two working groups appointed by Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter continue to consider those questions.


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