Getting health insurance through work now costs nearly $20,000

Editor’s note: This story was originally published on October 3, 2018

New York
CNN business

Employers and employees together spend about $20,000 on family health insurance in 2018, according to a new Kaiser Family Foundation report.

Although premiums have increased relatively modestly in recent years, growth over time has far outstripped employee increases. The average family premium has risen 55% since 2008, twice as fast as workers’ wages and three times as fast as inflation, Kaiser’s Employer Health Benefits Survey found.

Businesses pick up most of the tab, paying an average of $14,100 a year. However, workers must pay an average of $5,550, up 65% from a decade ago.

For single coverage, total premiums have reached $6,900, an average of 47% more than in 2008. Employees contribute about $1,200 a year.

Deductibles also continue to cut a deeper hole in workers’ pockets. The average deductible is now $1,350, up 212% since 2008. That’s eight times faster than wage growth.

Also, more workers are deductible: about 85% in 2018, compared to 59% a decade ago. A quarter of all workers have deductibles of at least $2,000, up from 15% five years ago.

Employers have sought to limit premium increases by raising deductibles. But high deductibles are among the top complaints Americans have about health coverage.

“As long as out-of-pocket costs for deductibles, drugs, surprise bills and more continue to outpace wage growth, people will be frustrated by their medical bills and see health care costs as a big pocket and political problem,” said Drew Altman, Kaiser- eco managers the president

While employers have been trying to reduce healthcare costs for years, the issue has once again come to the fore.

Amazon, Berkshire Hathaway and JPMorgan Chase announced earlier this year that they were joining forces to provide better health care options for their combined 840,000 employees and lower costs for both employees and companies.

More and more companies are contracting directly with hospitals and providers to care for their employees, according to a study by the National Business Group on Healthcare released in August. General Motors and Henry Ford Health System recently created that contract in Detroit. The six-hospital system will provide access to more than 3,000 primary care and specialty physicians, as well as hospital, emergency and pharmacy services, to nearly 24,000 salaried GM employees and their families.

Some employers want to limit their networks to a few high-quality suppliers, which allows them to keep costs down. 11% of companies said they have implemented such performance-based networks, up from 3% in 2014, according to a survey released earlier this year by consulting firm PwC. Another 34% of companies said they were considering such networks.

More large companies are offering coverage for telemedicine visits with providers, such as via video conferencing or remote monitoring. The share has risen to 74% this year, from 27% in 2015, according to Kaiser research.

The workers, however, have not yet embraced the new technology. Only 0.51% of those in large employer plans had at least one telemedicine visit in 2016, the most recent data available.

“Many companies are paying for telemedicine, but very few employees are using it,” said Matthew Rae, senior health policy analyst at Kaiser.