Feb 25, 2022 - Health

Workers have to pay more upfront for care

Illustration of a stack of cash repeated three times, over green shapes and a blue zigzag line.

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

As employers struggle to tame health care's market power, they have used the tools of less generous coverage — higher deductibles, copays and coinsurance — to offset some of the rising premiums.

Why it matters: Workers are increasingly finding their health insurance doesn't feel like insurance.

By the numbers: The average single worker's deductible has tripled since 2006, and 30% of all companies now have annual deductibles of $2,000 or more, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.

  • The average deductible for individual workers was almost $1,700 in 2021, according to KFF.
  • More than half of working families in high-deductible plans had deductibles of at least $5,000.
  • Federal law now outlaws most types of surprise bills, but workers could still face huge and unexpected costs depending on their network of hospitals and doctors.

Worth noting: Employees who face the highest out-of-pocket medical costs are those who work in industries that often don't offer insurance like food service, retail and hospitality.

  • Those industries disproportionately employ Black and Hispanic workers, and those workers are most vulnerable to being exposed to COVID-19.
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