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Higher-paid workers get bigger bills for group health insurance

Coonrod says he, too, would argue that it is a "fairer" approach. Besides, he asks, why should health care be treated differently from retirement, where employers have long based their contributions on the employees' wages and salaries?

Dinkin also cites "fairness" as one of the advantages of basing health insurance premiums on salary and wages. A company's lower-paid individuals often favor the strategy, and its higher-paid employees "feel they are helping others out," he says.

Looking ahead

The experts say that even more employers might look at the strategy for 2015 when, under Obamacare, they will be required to offer their employees affordable health insurance or pay a penalty.

Under the Affordable Care Act, coverage is considered unaffordable if employee premium contributions exceed 9.5 percent of family income. "It is possible that contribution levels, as they stand today at many companies, are above the 9.5 percent household income threshold," Dinkin says.

One way to reduce contributions for lower-wage workers and avoid penalties is to charge higher-paid workers more to offset the difference, Dinkin explains.

For people who buy plans in the health insurance marketplaces, subsidies in the form of tax credits are available to those who earn up to 400 percent of the federal poverty level. That's about $46,000 for an individual and $94,000 for a family of four. The amount of the subsidies the families are entitled to vary depending on family income and size.

Dinkin expects more companies to explore the possibility of setting contribution rates for those who might be otherwise eligible for a government subsidy at less than or equal to 9.5 percent and charging higher amounts for those at pay levels above the subsidy line.

Not without issues

The compensation-based health insurance strategy does have some negatives, the experts agree.

While some higher paid individuals may think the strategy is fair, others may resent having to pay more, Dinkin says.

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