Massachusetts' largest insurers say most of the state's companies and their workers will see increases of 10% or more in their health insurance premiums beginning next year.
The expected increase would follow five consecutive years in which premiums increased by at least 10%, which could lead to a greater number of uninsured people as workers and companies find coverage too expensive.
"As prices go up, some at the margin won't be able to afford to cover their families," Michael Doonan, executive director of the Massachusetts Health Policy Forum, told the Boston Globe. As a result, more people will be driven to Medicaid, the federal program administered by states for low-income people, Doonan said.
Insurance companies and employers are now negotiating rates and coverage for 2006. Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Massachusetts, the state's largest insurer with 2.75 million members, said it expects to raise premiums between 10% and 14% for employers with more than 50 workers, although benefit "buy-downs" -- eliminating some types of coverage in exchange for lower premiums -- will reduce the impact, the Globe reported. Harvard Pilgrim Health Care, the second largest insurer in Massachusetts with 885,000 members, predicted an increase between 7% and 13% for 2006.
Since 1999, the average total annual cost of health insurance for a Boston-area worker nearly doubled, to $8,000 this year, according to a study by the consulting firm of Hewitt Associates in Lincolnshire, Ill.