While premiums in the Affordable Care Act marketplaces appear to have leveled out after several years of sharp increases, the cost of employer-sponsored insurance has reached a record high.
Companies and their workers for the first time are shelling out more than $20,000 on average for family health benefits in 2019, with employees picking up more than a quarter of the cost, according to a national survey released Wednesday.
The average annual family premium rose 4.9% to $20,576 over 2018, far outpacing growth in wages and inflation, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation's annual report on employer coverage. Premiums for individual coverage grew more slowly, rising 4.2% to $7,188.
Workers' earnings and overall inflation grew 3.4% and 2% respectively.
"The single biggest issue in healthcare for most Americans is that their health costs are growing much faster than their wages are," KFF President and CEO Drew Altman said in a statement. "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."
Meanwhile, the nationwide increase in ACA individual premiums is expected to inch up just 0.5% and 1% on average, with many states experiencing premium reductions for 2020 coverage, according to Dave Dillon, a fellow with the Society of Actuaries who works with insurers and regulators to develop rates.
Most people in the United States—about 153 million—get their health insurance through their jobs. Employer-sponsored coverage in the past has been left out of national conversations about health insurance affordability, even though it has seen enormous growth in costs over the last decade. More recently, though, experts have suggested that the struggle among workers to afford employer health coverage could be fueling interest in Medicare-For-All proposals that eliminate job-based coverage.
Over the past 10 years, family premiums paid by employers and workers have grown nearly 54%.
Increasingly, workers are picking up a larger portion of the premium. In 2019, they paid $6,015 in premiums for family coverage, or about 29% of the total tab. Workers with individual coverage contributed 17.3% toward the total premium.
Kaiser Family Foundation also found that the average deductible among workers with single coverage was $1,655, similar to last year but double what it was in 2009. About 82% of covered employees with deductibles they must meet before insurance will pay for healthcare services.
Low-wage employees face some of the biggest challenges affording employer coverage, according to the survey. Among companies that offer health benefits, those with workers making less than $25,000 a year provide coverage to a smaller share of employees and require them to contribute about 40% toward premiums on average. Fewer low-wage workers take up employer health benefits as a result.