By this time you might know that New Hampshire has some of the highest health insurance rates in the country. The state is among the 10 most expensive places in the US to buy health insurance. At the same time we rank second in the nation, right behind Massachusetts, for high numbers of private employers who offer health coverage for their workers. The latest figures show that almost 100 percent of large businesses in New Hampshire provide health insurance and about 50 percent of small business buy some form of coverage for their employees.
But in a market where the average health insurance plan now costs families more than $15,000 per year, how are the state’s small businesses paying for those health plans and what are they getting for their money?
“Our clients are seeing increases of 15-17 percent,” says Eleanor Spinazzola, owner of E&S Insurance Services. She says more employers are passing on those higher costs to their employees.
“The most popular health plan is now one with a $3,000 deductible,” she says.
High-deductible plans may be one way for employers to control costs, another may be to share less of the premium costs.
“It’s out of control, ” says Kevin Boyarsky owner of Print Solutions in Concord. “Our premiums went up 28 percent this year.”
Boyarsky’s company has seven employees and he has always paid half of their insurance premium. The problem, he says, is that prices have increased so much in recent years that a family plan now costs $1,600 dollars a month–half of which is paid by the employee.
“Some of my employees don’t want to pay that kind of money and have opted out of coverage,” he says. “They’re taking their chances but I cannot force them to buy health insurance.”
Boyarsky has also noticed that despite major premium increases, he and his employees are paying more but getting less in the way of coverage. “The plans have become diluted,” he says
“The plans are changing, no question about it,” says New Hampshire insurance broker Linda Spinnazola.”The plans are not as rich.” What Spinnazola means by “rich” is that health plans are increasingly shifting their costs onto their members. Spinnazolasays major health plans in the state that used to pay 100 percent for lab tests and other diagnostics services are now beginning to charge members for part of those expenses. The same is true for prescription drug coverage, she says. Health plans that used to charge members a co-pay for medication are now requiring that member pay a portion of the total cost of the drug.
Spinnazola says so far employers are still buying health insurance for their employees. But she worries that may change.
“Our groups are not dropping coverage yet,” Spinnazola says. “But it’s getting to the point that none of us are going to be able to afford health insurance.”