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New Study Finds Health Care Costs Are Rising Almost Twice as Fast as Wages

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If you’ve noticed an increasingly bigger chunk is coming out of your paycheck for medical premiums and deductibles, you’re not alone, according to a newly released survey.

In 2018, the cost of premiums has outpaced raises and inflation, the Kaiser Family Foundation’s Employer Health Benefits Survey found.

The 20th annual survey looked at cost trends for the 152 million Americans who are covered by health insurance — almost half of the population.

Together, employers and employees now spend $19,616 annually on coverage per family, while single coverage costs $6,896, according to the foundation.

From 2006 to 2012, premiums rose 37%, while salaries increased only 18%.

Who’s Affected Most by Rising Health Care Costs?

“Rising health care costs absolutely remain a burden for employers, but they’re a bigger problem for workers as their cost sharing has been rising really much faster than their wages have been rising in recent years,” said Drew Altman, president and CEO of the Kaiser Family Foundation.

Average family premiums increased 5% in the past year, while singles paid 3% more. Meanwhile, wages outpaced inflation by just 0.1%, according to the report.

In general, employees at smaller companies shoulder a larger percentage of premiums and deductibles than their counterparts at bigger firms, Altman said. Average deductibles were $2,132 at small firms versus $1,355 at large employers (200 employees or more).

The cost paid for deductibles rose 212% over the past decade — eight times the growth of wages, he said.

On the upside for smaller firms, 27% of employees’ entire premium costs are employer-paid, versus 6% of employees at large companies, according to the report.

How Much Are We Paying for Health Care Each Year?

The average premium amount contributed by all workers is $1,186 for a single person and $5,547 for a family. Although that’s about the same as last year, the average amount for family coverage has increased 21% since 2013 and 65% since 2008, Kaiser found.

Most workers also are responsible for copayments when they go to a doctor’s appointment. The average is $25 for primary care and $40 for specialists, Kaiser calculated. Many workers also pay coinsurance of 18% of the covered amount of each visit, whether to a primary-care doctor or a specialist. (That was about the same as in 2017.)

Kaiser officials said employees should read their companies’ websites carefully to determine the most cost-effective option, although they acknowledge that the choices may not be plentiful.

“When you can, you should shop around,” Altman said.

Susan Jacobson is an editor for The Penny Hoarder. She also writes about health and wellness.

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