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Expand chart
Reproduced from Peter-Kaiser Health System Tracker; Chart: Axios Visuals

The past decade has seen enormous growth in health care costs paid by both employees and employers, creating the context for some of today's biggest political debates as well as teeing up more problems for the future.

Yes, but: There are some signs that employers have maxed out their ability to shift costs to employees.

By the numbers: Health spending by families who get their insurance from large employers has grown two times faster than wages over the last decade, driven partially by the rise in deductibles, according to a new brief by the Kaiser Family Foundation.

  • Employees' average costs for family coverage rose from $1,779 in out-of-pocket spending and $2,838 in premiums in 2008 to $3,020 and $4,706, respectively, in 2018.
  • But it's not like employers' costs have remained stable over the same time period: Their premium contribution has risen, on average, from $10,008 to $15,159.

Why it matters: People are paying higher premiums for insurance that leaves them on the hook for more of their bills.

  • Rising deductibles "has worsened inequality, fueling anger and resentment and adding to the country’s unsettled politics," the LA Times' Noam Levey recently reported in a series on high deductibles.
  • It's also fueled the debate over prescription drugs, which have become more expensive as patients become more exposed to their cost. That's been especially hard on chronically ill people, and "has made being sick in the U.S. dramatically more expensive," Levey reported.
  • The realization that the Affordable Care Act's coverage gains did little to make a dent in the cost of care for many Americans is part of the rationale behind Democrats' leftward march, and the most radical form of Medicare for All would completely eliminate premiums and cost-sharing for everyone.

What we're watching: There are signs that the system is nearing a breaking point.

  • Another analysis of employer-sponsored health insurance by the State Health Access Data Assistance Center found that deductibles remained stable, on average nationally, between 2017 and 2018 — a big change from the steady increase of previous years.
  • However, "it is likely too soon to say if 2018 data represents a break in the long-running growth in [employer insurance] deductibles or just a temporary pause," the authors cautioned.
  • There have also been predictions that 2020 will be the year that employers start fighting back against high prices.

The bottom line: Eventually things will change, because they have to. The current trajectory isn't sustainable.

Go deeper:

Go deeper

Former Sen. Bob Dole dies

Former Senator Bob Dole in 2019. Photo: Tom Brenner/Getty Images

Former Kansas Senator Leader Bob Dole passed away Sunday morning at the age of 98, the Elizabeth Dole Foundation announced in a statement.

Driving the news: Dole, a revered figure in U.S. politics and the Republican presidential nominee in 1996, served in the Senate for 27 years, including 11 years as GOP leader. Earlier this year he revealed he had been diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer.

Movie theaters go out of style

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Vaccination rates are going up, people are going out to restaurants again — although the new COVID variant may get in the way — but they still aren't rushing back to the movies.

By the numbers: Some 49% of pre-pandemic moviegoers are no longer hitting theaters, according to a study from the film research company The Quorum, as reported by the New York Times.

5 hours ago - Health

Vaccine mandates lose steam in the U.S. while Europe doubles down

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

European countries are doubling down on pressure campaigns to get people vaccinated just as Republicans continue to wage war — often successfully — against vaccine mandates in the U.S.

Why it matters: The starkly different approaches create a sharp contrast between the regions' approaches to vaccination, even as the Omicron variant rapidly spreads around the world.

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