Kentucky health care premiums increase

A recent analysis of government statistics suggests that Kentucky health care premiums have increased by 27.26 percent.

“Kentucky was found to have the sixth-largest rate increase in annual health insurance premiums at 27.26 percent over a six-year period,” said Emily Lamb, Public Relations Specialist for QuoteWizard by LendingTree, LLC. “QuoteWizard analyzed data from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality to evaluate average annual health insurance premiums per person for employer-based plans.”

Kentucky’s increase is higher than average. QuoteWizard’s healthcare analyst, Adam Johnson, determined that nationwide, health insurance premiums have risen an average of 20 percent from 2013 to 2018.

“In 2013, Kentucky’s annual premium cost was $5,257, rising to $6,690 in 2018,” Lamb said. “In 2018, Kentucky employees contributed an average of $1,633 per year on health premiums, while employers contributed $5,057. Employees paid an average of 24.41 percent of the total premium costs that year.”

Director of Communication Shawn Touney said rising healthcare costs are an important issue to the University.

“As the University plans and prepares to put forth for approval each year, a balanced budget that takes into account projected expenses and revenue for the University, healthcare costs are a necessary reality in this budgetary process,” Touney said.

Employers generally bear the greatest cost increase when health insurance companies increase their premiums. Johnson said Pew Research suggests that the leading reason for stagnation in wage increases is the rising cost of employer-based health insurance.

“Pew Research indicated over the last five years wages experience a 2 percent to 3 percent year-over-year increase,” Johnson said. “Employer-based insurance premiums are increasing 5 percent to 6 percent year-over-year. With insurance premiums out pacing wage growth it seems that trend could be a key factor in wage stagnation.”

Since 2013, Kentucky’s employee personal health premium costs have increased by 34.40 percent, while employer contributions to health costs have increased by 25.11 percent.

“Human resources is charged with the overall management of the benefits programs for faculty and staff and works closely with the Insurance and Benefits Committee, which is a standing committee of the University and has both faculty and staff representation,” Touney said. “Currently Murray State has a self-insured plan and covers approximately 84 percent of the total healthcare cost, with the employees covering the remaining 16 percent of total plan costs.”

To reduce the potential of health care expenses, the University has implemented healthcare programs, such as the Racer Pledge Wellness Plan.

“Racer Pledge participants can elect Wellness Center access at no cost to the employee,” Touney said. “New offerings for Racer Wellness events include sessions led by local healthcare providers, as well as financial wellness, managing stress and other topics developed to positively impact employee wellbeing. Additionally, the Racer Wellness program offers smoking cessation classes on campus.”

The University has created a High Deductible Health Plan and has increased employer contributions for Health Savings Accounts for employees that participate in healthcare programs. As the programs encourage employees to be engaged in their healthcare options, the University believes they will help manage costs.

A voluntary benefits program has also been created to coordinate with the University’s High Deductible Health Plan policy. The group programs include options like life insurance, disability insurance, vision, dental and critical illness policies.

Additional University healthcare programs include the Know Your Rx pharmacy program that advises faculty and staff on how to make the most of their prescription benefits and how to lower pharmacy costs. Murray State has also implemented a tobacco premium surcharge for tobacco users to encourage a better standard of health.

When preparing to enter the workforce, it is important for students to consider how health care costs will affect their potential income.

“It is important for students to be informed about employer benefits, especially healthcare,” Touney said. “This topic is included in a number of courses on campus, and HR staff continue to speak with classes as well. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle is also critically important.”