You suspected it. Now you have the numbers.
Americans with employer-sponsored health insurance can expect to pay a bigger share of health care costs this year than ever before -- 41 percent, up from 38 percent in 2006, according to a major national study released Monday.
For a typical family of four, that will come to nearly $7,000 this year.
Total medical costs for such a family in 2009 are expected to hit $16,771, up 7.4 percent from last year. This year, employers are expected to pay $9,947 of that, with employees picking up $4,004 through their share of health plan premiums and another $2,820 through out-of-pocket costs such as co-pays and deductibles.
In Minneapolis-St. Paul, a family can expect to use $17,374 worth of medical care, 3.6 percent more than the national average, the survey found.
Employees shouldn't expect the cost-shifting to let up. As the recession continues to hurt business revenue, employers are likely to ask employees to take on a bigger share of medical costs, said Kate Fitch, a health care consultant with Milliman, the Seattle-based actuarial consulting firm that produced the report.
"The burden for the employee may be reaching a breaking point," Fitch said.
The report looked at employer-sponsored traditional insurance plans called preferred-provider organizations, which cover the majority of commercially insured workers. It did not include the small but fast-growing category of high-deductible plans with health savings accounts, where workers take on an even bigger share of risk.
Use levels off
One piece of good news is that consumption of medical services is expected to be flat this year for the first time in the survey's history. Fitch attributed that slowdown to disease-management and wellness programs that keep people out of the hospital, as well as efforts to cut down on hospital infections and unnecessary high-tech imaging, moves that fall under the umbrella of quality.
However, per unit costs of medical care are up. Hospital outpatient care showed the highest growth this year. Many procedures that used to be inpatient can now be done on an outpatient basis because of new technology.
Milliman studied 14 metropolitan areas, including Minneapolis, and found wide variation in medical costs.
Miami had the dubious honor of coming up tops, with the typical family expected to rack up $20,282 in medical bills this year, 22 percent above the national average. At the other end was Phoenix, where a family can expect to incur $14,857, 11 percent below the national average.
Milliman researchers analyzed the health insurance claims of more than 20 million people. The report does not include administrative costs for health plans.
Chen May Yee • 612-673-7434