KFF: Annual family premiums in employer plans top $20K in 2019

Health insurance form with wood pen, basic calculator, white piggy bank, and pile of coins
A new Kaiser Family Foundation survey examines costs in employer-sponsored health plans. (Getty Images/michaelquirk)

Average premiums for families enrolled in employer-sponsored insurance increased by 5% over the past year, according to a new survey from the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF). 

The foundation released Wednesday its annual Employer Health Benefits Survey, which found that average annual premiums in 2019 were $7,188 for single coverage and $20,576 for family coverage, an increase of 4% and 5%, respectively, from 2018. 

The average deductible in 2019 for single coverage was $1,655. Employees in smaller firms pay higher deductibles on average than those at larger employers, an average of $2,271 compared to $1,412. 

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That average deductible is 41% higher than the average in 2014 and 162% than the average annual deductible in 2009, according to the report.  

Meanwhile, workers' wages increased by 3.4%, and inflation went up by 2%, the report shows. The survey found, on average, workers are contributing $6,015 toward the cost of family coverage, with employers covering the rest. 

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“The single biggest issue in healthcare for most Americans is that their health costs are growing much faster than their wages are,” Drew Altman, CEO of the foundation, said.  

Employers with many people earning low wages, defined in the report as $25,000 per year or less, generally offer benefits to fewer people and require workers to pitch in a greater share of their individual healthcare costs, the report found. 

Among the low-wage employers that do offer benefits, 66% of employees were eligible, compared to 81% eligible at other companies, according to the survey. Family premiums at these firms are lower than at other firms by about 15% at an average of $17,633. 

However, low-wage workers contribute more than other workers to that amount, the report found, averaging an annual family contribution of $7,047 compared to $5,968.  

“Costs are prohibitive when workers making $25,000 a year have to shell out $7,000 a year just for their share of family premiums,” Altman said. 

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Perhaps unsurprisingly, the report found that as a result the uptake of coverage among workers at these smaller firms was significantly lower compared to other employers. About one-third (33%) of workers at low-wage firms are enrolled in their employer coverage, compared to 63% of those working at other businesses. 

KFF’s survey also found that the rollback of the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate penalty did not lead to large numbers of workers dropping out of employer plans. Just 9% of firms with at least 50 employees said eliminating the tax penalty led to fewer workers enrolling in coverage. 

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