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The boss has a heart after all

By Jay MacDonald ·
Friday, July 29, 2011
Posted: 9 am ET

As employers continue to shift the burden for health insurance costs onto their employees, there appears to be one line they are unwilling to cross: the so-called "third rail" coverage for dependent medical care.

A recent survey of 156 business executives by the benefit consulting firm Corporate Synergies Group and the Financial Executives Research Foundation found that while employers continue to pull back benefits from the other side of the table, only 2 percent said they might sneak a chip or two at the expense of their workers' spouses and children.

That's small comfort in a bleak landscape that desperately needs some cheer.

As a Kaiser Family Foundation survey reported last September, employee premiums have risen 47 percent since 2005 while overall premiums increased just 27 percent during the period.

While employers still pay roughly 70 percent of employer-sponsored health insurance plans, Kaiser found that they've stopped absorbing the annual premium increases and instead pass them along to their workers.

Which health benefit chips have your boss been squirreling from your stack? The new survey says that during the past five years, 88 percent of the employers surveyed increased co-pays and/or deductibles, 42 percent resorted to high-deductible plans or health savings accounts and 38 percent reduced overall coverage levels.

That's one bad deal, especially when you consider that 21 percent said they had reduced or eliminated salary increases and/or bonuses at the same time.

Is it just me or are you starting to smell that old Reaganomics trickle-down drip-drip-drip all over again?

Employees are responding to this squeeze play as best they can. The survey found that the majority (60 percent) have moved into high-deductible plans, while only 11 percent were willing to sacrifice dependent coverage.

Last May, a pair of reports attempted to gauge the toll that this erosion of employment health insurance benefits might be taking on the American workforce. Executive summary: One in three workers is actively job-hunting, the other two are miserable and disloyal.

Whatever happened to that big, smiley "Gee, but I'm lucky to have a job!" American worker? Dude's on life support as employees realize the bum hand they're being dealt by the guy with the corner office, the annual raise -- and now, the affordable health insurance.

The May report by MetLife ended on a positive note, saying that employers are optimistic that they'll soon be able to right their ship with the savings to come from health care reform.

If so, why are they spending so much dough to fight it?

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