A recent Commonwealth Fund survey found that four in 10 working-age adults skipped some kind of care because of the cost, and other surveys have found much the same. The portion of workers with annual deductibles — what consumers must pay before insurance kicks in — rose from 55% eight years ago to 80% today, according to research by the Kaiser Family Foundation. And a Mercer study showed that 2014 saw the largest one-year increase in enrollment in "high-deductible plans" — from 18% to 23% of all covered employees.
Meanwhile the size of the average deductible more than doubled in eight years, from $584 to $1,217 for individual coverage. Add to this co-pays, co-insurance and the price of drugs or procedures not covered by plans — and it's all too much for many Americans.
Since the ACA took effect, "there's been an accelerated movement" to these types of health plans, says Brian Marcotte, president and chief executive officer of the Washington, D.C.-based Business Group on Health.
Marcotte, whose group represents 400 large employers, says that the looming Cadillac tax is one factor but acknowledged that managing health care costs is another.
Companies have cited the ACA for cutting medical benefits in other ways. For example, United Parcel Service partly blamed the law when it removed thousands of spouses from its plan because they are eligible for medical coverage elsewhere.
But DeAnn Friedholm, director of health reform for Consumers Union, says she's skeptical when employers point to the ACA. "This isn't new," she says. "Companies have been cutting back on benefits and cutting costs for decades."