Health insurance cost increase triple wage growth since 2002

The cost of employer-sponsored family health coverage has increased nearly three times as much as wages and inflation since 2002, a national employer survey released today found.

Premiums for family health coverage increased to an average of $15,745, up 4 percent this year, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation/Health Research & Educational Trust (HRET).

Employers have seen double-digit increases in premium costs, which makes the 2012 figure seem modest, but since 2002, health insurance premiums have grown 97 percent, compared to 33 percent growth in wages and 38 percent growth in inflation, the survey found.

“In terms of employee insurance costs, this year’s 4 percent increase qualifies as a good year, but it still takes a growing bite out of middle-class workers’ wages, which have been flat or falling in real terms,” said Drew Altman, president and CEO of Kaiser Family Foundation.

The 14th annual Kaiser/HRET survey includes more than 2,000 small and large employers.

The survey found a significant disparity in benefits and worker contributions toward family premiums between firms where at least 35 percent of employees earned $24,000 or less a year and those where at least 35 percent of workers earned $55,000 or more a year.

On average, workers at lower-wage firms pay $1,000 or more out of their paychecks for family coverage than workers at higher-wage firms — $4,977 for lower-wage workers, compared to $3,968, on average. Lower-wage workers paid more for coverage even though the overall premium cost less, on average, than coverage provided to higher-wage workers, the survey found — $14,694 in total annual premiums for lower-wage workers, compared to $16,427 for higher wage workers.

Lower-wage workers are also more likely to have plans that include high deductibles than higher-wage workers. The survey found 44 percent of covered workers with many lower-wage employees had an annual deductible of $1,000 or more, compared to 29 percent of companies with many higher-wage employees.

Across all employers, 34 percent of workers have plans with deductibles of $1,000 or more, including 14 percent who have annual deductibles of at least $2,000, the survey found.

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