Employer health insurance: Deductibles rising faster than wages

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Health insurance deductibles have risen much faster than average wages over the last 10 years, according to the latest Employer Health Benefit Survey released by the Kaiser Family Foundation.

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“The share of workers in plans with a general annual deductible has gone from 59% to 85%, and I think even more notably, the average deductible has more than doubled from $735 to $1,573 and deductibles have risen more markedly in smaller firms,” Drew Altman, president and CEO of the KFF said during an Oct. 3 press conference.

“These two trends combine for an effective 212% increase in worker deductibles over the past decade, and that is 8 times the increase in workers’ wages during the same period, which for me is the most important number,” he said.

Employer health care costs generally have remained stable, according to the annual survey, now in its 20th year. Annual family premiums for employer-sponsored health insurance rose 5% to an average $19,616 in 2018, extending a 7-year run of moderate increases. The average premium paid by the employee is $5,547.

For a single individual, the average premium increased 3% to $6,896, with employees contributing an average of $1,186.

Although the year-over-year comparison has a premiums increase comparable to that of wages (2.6%) and inflation ($2.5%), over time, premiums are rising much faster.

Drew Altman

KFF noted that 85% of employees have a deductible in their plan, up from 81% last year and 59% a decade ago. About 152 million Americans are covered by an employer-sponsored plan.

“Health care costs absolutely remain a burden for employers, but they are a bigger problem for workers as their cost sharing has been rising much faster than their wages have been rising in recent years,” Mr. Altman said.

The survey found that 70% of large employers offer some kind of complete health risk assessments and 38% offer incentives for workers to participate in these programs, with the value of incentives reaching $500 or more.

SOURCE: Kaiser Family Foundation, 2018 Employer Health Benefits.

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