Premiums for employer-sponsored insurance increase slightly for sixth straight year

Health insurance, pen and stethoscope
Premiums in employee-based plans increased slightly this year. (Getty/Minerva Studio)

Premiums for employer-sponsored insurance have edged up for the sixth straight year, according to a new report.

Premiums increased by an average of 3%, to an average of $18,764 this year, according to a report from the Kaiser Family Foundation, Health Research and Education Trust and Health Affairs. The increase is slightly higher than the rise in workers' wages, which as about 2.3% on average, and 2% inflation.

These moderate increases of the past several years mark a slowdown compared to other recent windows. Family premium rates have increased 19% since 2012, compared to a 30% jump between 2007 and 2012 and a 51% increase between 2002 and 2007.

“While the marketplaces seem to get all the attention, the much larger employer market where more than 150 million people get their coverage is very stable," Kaiser Family Foundation CEO Drew Altman said in an announcement.

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This stability is in sharp contrast to the individual marketplaces, where premiums have increased significantly. The problem is exacerbated by a lack of options available in the insurance exchanges, research shows.

The analysis did find differences in how large and small employers pay for their employees' insurance. While there are more small employers than large ones, significantly more covered employees work at large firms (71% versus 29%).

Workers at small firms also tend to contribute more to their family coverage, according to the report. These employees contributed on average $1,550 more than those employed by a larger company. Smaller employers are more likely to make the same insurance contributions across the board, for individuals and family coverage, leading to more than a third (36%) of their employees paying most or all of their family premiums themselves.

RELATED: Midsize and small employers add coverage in 2016 after years of decreases

The report also found that employees at smaller firms have higher average deductibles. Employees at smaller companies had an average deductible of $2,120, compared with $1,276 at larger firms.

“As policymakers and providers continue to work to improve health care, ensuring it remains affordable and accessible is critically important," Jay Bhatt, M.D., president of HRET and senior vice president and chief medical officer at the American Hospital Association, said in the announcement.