On Wednesday, the Kaiser Family Foundation and the Health Research & Education Trust released a survey showing soaring deductibles in employer health insurance plans. Although the results show a general slowdown in healthcare cost growth overall, the average employee deductible has increased by almost 50% since 2009—to $1,217 annually. 18% of workers have a deductible of at least $2,000.
Although some industry experts believe that higher out-of-pocket costs will help keep costs down because it encourages consumers to price-shop, others believe that high deductibles will increase the burden of bad debt on hospitals by presenting an untenable strain on individual budgets. Moreover, workers' share of health premiums has also increased dramatically: 212% since 1999. That's nearly four times as fast as wages have grown nationwide in that period, according to the survey.
The share of premiums contributed by workers does vary from firm to firm. Of those with single coverage, 57% make a contribution of less than or equal to a quarter of their total premium, 2% contribute more than half of their premium and 14% pay nothing towards their premium at all.
Deductible size also varies dramatically from firm to firm, depending on the size of the organization. Although the average for single coverage sits at $1,217, for workers at small firms, the average is $1,797. For those in larger firms, it's $971. Workers in small firms are much more likely to have high deductibles than those in larger firms: 61% of covered workers in small firms have a single-coverage deductible of $1,000 or more. In smaller firms, that number is 32%. 34% in smaller firms have a deductible of $2,000 or more while only 11% in larger firms have a deductible of that size.
"Higher deductibles may be good if you're relatively young and healthy," said Drew Altman, chief executive of the Kaiser Family Foundation. "But they may be a bad thing if you are lower or moderate income or chronically ill. This can be a real burden on the family budget."
Employer plans cover about 149 million nonelderly people.