A couple of weeks ago, as Obamacare was just stumbling out of the gate, we asked our readers to tell us about the state of their own health insurance plans through their firms. Since the Recession, we have heard anecdotal evidence that some firms have been using health care cost clawbacks as a stealth expense-cutting tactic and de facto pay cut. We wondered how widespread a phenomenon this practice had become. Well, perhaps that’s a bit disingenuous. We had a strong feeling that, in this time of layoffs and all the rest of the Biglaw belt-tightening measures, that no category of expenses would be immune. And our survey results resoundingly confirm those suspicions: 89% of you tell us that your health insurance premiums have gone up since you started work at your firm.

A relevant tip showed up in the ATL inbox this week. An attorney at a prominent (V25) law firm sent us a memo outlining new changes to the firm’s health plan. Here’s an excerpt: “The deductible for the CIGNA PPO plan will change from $250 single/$750 family to $500 single/$1,000 family. Also, the PPO prescription copays [will all increase]. These changes bring our PPO plan design in line with market
practice for large law firms
(emphasis added)”…

Alternative version: “Your health care costs are going up (deductibles just doubled for you singletons), and if you don’t like it, well too bad, because everybody’s doing it.” The bolded final sentence might seem an innocuous example of memo-speak, but it is hard to imagine such an official buck-passing to “market practice” in a better economic climate. Once upon a fairly recent time, a similar communiqué might have concluded by claiming, “we have enacted these plan changes to ensure we continue to provide the best care for you and your family at an affordable cost,” or some such sentiment. But across most of Biglaw, that feels like an antiquated notion.

Now for our survey results. First, how are people describing their health care plans? Here are the top ten most common descriptors used by survey respondents in characterizing their health insurance plans:

1. good (or “very good”)

2. expensive

3. nothing

4. suck (or “sucks”)

5. cheap (describing the employer)

6. terrible

7. worst

8. mediocre

9. crap

10. cheap (describing the cost of the plan)

These results seem to speak for themselves. There are some satisfied lawyers out there, but they are hardly dominating the conversation.

Below are the survey results by plan type, including average monthly cost to the employee and percentage cost covered by the firm. Most survey respondents did not identify their firms, but if we extrapolate from those who did, it seems respondents were fairly evenly split between Biglaw and smaller firms.

Single employees

Average monthly cost: $292.89

Premiums have increased since start of employment? 82% Yes

Percentage of health care costs covered by firm:

0-25%: 29% (21% zero coverage)
26-50%: 27%
51-75%: 23%
76-100%: 21% (8% one hundred percent coverage)

Employee + Spouse/Partner

Average monthly cost: $584.95

Premiums have increased since start of employment? 100% Yes

Percentage of health care costs covered by firm:

0-25%: 30% (22% zero coverage)
26-50%: 19%
51-75%: 32%
76-100%: 19% (5% one hundred percent coverage)

Family plans

Average monthly cost: $852.33

Premiums have increased since start of employment? 92% Yes

Percentage of health care costs covered by firm:

0-25%: 26% (18% zero coverage)
26-50%: 26%
51-75%: 20%
76-100%: 28% (20% one hundred percent coverage)

How does your employer rate against these findings? Our survey is still open, so please take a a couple of minutes and let us know here.

Law Firm Health Insurance Survey [Above the Law]


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