Oct 18, 2023 - Health

Health insurance costs near $24K after big jump this year: survey

Change in U.S. family health care costs
Data: KFF, BLS; Chart: Axios Visuals

The average cost of workplace health insurance premiums for family coverage reached nearly $24,000 this year, jumping 7% from 2022, according to the latest annual KFF survey of employer-sponsored coverage.

Why it matters: After a few years of largely flat growth, inflation appears to be driving a steady uptick in health care costs. Employers, facing a tight labor market, are trying to limit how much of those costs they pass on to workers.

What they're saying: "It's just an incredible amount of money to spend on health insurance every year," said KFF health insurance expert Matthew Rae, who co-authored the report.

By the numbers: Workers on average contributed $6,575 toward the cost of family coverage — up about $500 from last year — while employers kicked in $17,393, according to the KFF survey of more than 2,000 large and small employers conducted during the first half of this year.

  • The average cost of an individual plan was $8,435, with the employee contribution averaging $1,401 — similar to last year.

Zoom in: While premiums for family coverage rose 7%, wages grew about 5.2% on average and inflation rose 5.8% last year.

  • The jump in health costs "is absolutely being driven by inflation," Rae said.
  • Higher expenses for health care providers increase health costs for employers, which is leading to higher premiums, he said.

Yes, but: Average deductibles stayed largely the same in recent years, hovering around $1,735. That continues a five-year stretch of relatively flat deductible growth following years of steady hikes, and it likely reflects employers' concerns about whether workers can afford care.

  • The thinking goes, Rae said: "We're spending $24,000 on these health benefits. We might as well make sure our employees can use it."

Between the lines: Despite a large amount of attention on how employers cover abortion following the Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade, only 32% of large employers said they cover abortion in most or all circumstances, while 18% said they cover it in limited circumstances such as rape, incest or health endangerment.

  • Only 7% said they provide financial assistance for employees to travel out of state to receive an abortion.
  • Employers also indicated concerns about building networks that include enough mental health providers amid heightened demand for services. The vast majority of large firms said they felt confident their workers could access primary care, but only 67% said there were sufficient numbers of mental health providers.
  • About 1 in 5 large said they took steps last year to increase the number of in-network mental health providers.
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