A young woman dances and sings with other church members during a Zionist service in rural Swaziland. The pastor often preaches about the HIV epidemic and how neighbors must help care for one another.
Krisanne Johnson—Magnum Foundation Emergency Fund
By Amanda Gengler
March 14, 2014

In a survey last year by the National Business Group on Health, 54% of workers with employer coverage said they expected their insurance premiums would rise in 2014 because of health reform.

And what you shell out for this benefit does keep going up — premiums rose an average of 5% at large firms this year, according to benefits consultant Towers Watson. Can you pin that on Obamacare? “Reform is a factor,” says Towers Watson’s Tom Billet, “but not the biggest one.”

The cost drivers. That said, a few Obamacare provisions pushed up premiums by 1% to 2%, says Billet.

Your boss has to pay new fees ($63 per plan member). New taxes on insurers may have trickled down to you. And since co-pays must now count toward your out-of-pocket max, your plan may have to pick up costs sooner.

At a small number of firms, reform may have hiked premiums by as much as 5%, says Beth Umland, director of research for health and benefits at consultant Mercer. That’s especially a risk if the coverage hadn’t been broad, or if far more workers were expected to enroll.

The biggest reason you’re spending more on premiums and out-of-pocket costs is that prices for the care you get continue to rise. That’s particularly true at hospitals, where nearly one of every two health care dollars goes. Outpatient visits, which are increasingly replacing inpatient stays, are commanding the biggest increases..

How to save. You can’t do much about your premium, but you’re also facing higher deductibles — a tradeoff for not seeing your premium go up even more. So research in advance what hospitals and doctors charge. Even in-network you’ll find a wide range, and studies say that the most expensive care isn’t necessarily the best.

Your insurer’s website may have your plan’s negotiated rates. The sites fairhealthconsumer.org and healthcarebluebook.com list what’s typical for services in your area. And at nerdwallet.com/health you can see what Medicare pays 3,200 hospitals for 100 common services — useful if you’re going out of network and negotiating the price.

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