Health insurance deductibles up 150% over last decade: analysis

Health insurance deductibles have been steadily rising over the last decade, jumping 150% since 2009, according to an analysis by the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF).

The report, published ahead of Deductible Relief Day on May 19, shows the average deductible for a single person in 2009 was $533. It was $1,350 in 2018.

The number of adults required to pay deductibles has gone up as well, the analysis found. In 2009, 59% of people on an employer plan were required to pay a deductible. That number was 85% in 2018.

Out-of-pocket spending among people with employer coverage has risen from $493 in 2007 to $792 in 2017, largely due to a higher spend on deductibles. But even after deductibles are met, many patients are required to pay for doctor visits, coinsurance or a portion of a medical bill. And average spending on deductibles has more than doubled from $130 in 2007 to $411 in 2017.

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"While many enrollees do not have any health spending in a year, lots of other enrollees have significant amounts of cost sharing before they can access services. That can put a strain on households, especially when several people in the family are using services," Matthew Rae, a senior policy analyst at KFF, told FierceHealthcare. 

Using data from the Peterson-Kaiser Health System Tracker, an online information hub that monitors and assesses the U.S. health system, analysts estimate Deductible Relief Day—the day when the average person with employer coverage satisfies their deductible—to occur around May 19. The date used to fall in March back in 2009.

Higher deductibles have been linked to consumers having a harder time affording care and making them more likely to avoid getting care than those with lower deductibles. And for those with high deductibles, 53% have less in savings than the amount of their deductible.

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Moving forward, Rae notes that having an increasing proportion of cost-sharing coming in the form of deductibles may have impacts on household budgets and how people use their plans. 

"Deductibles are more top-loaded when an enrollee first uses services in a year as opposed to copays and coinsurances which can be more spread out. Many households do not having savings to pay for the high initial cost of many deductibles seen in employer plans," he added.