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Workers' health care costs just keep rising

Reproduced from Kaiser Family Foundation 2018 Employer Health Benefits Survey; Note: Average general annual deductibles are for single coverage; Chart: Axios Visuals

Every year, health care takes a little bigger bite out of workers' bottom lines. Slowly but surely, it has eaten up all of the average workers' wage increases — and then some.

The big picture: Overall, the cost of employer-based health benefits is growing pretty modestly from year to year, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation's annual review of those plans. But over the past 10 years, employees have ended up covering more of their own health care bills out of pocket — especially through deductibles. Those costs are rising faster than inflation and faster than wages.

By the numbers: For single coverage — a plan that just covers you, no family members — employees are paying an average of about $1,200 per year in premiums. That’s 65% more than what they paid in 2008.

  • The bigger story is deductibles — the amount you have to pay before your insurance kicks in — which are growing in every way.
  • The number of employees who have a deductible is up. The size of the average deductible is up — 212% since 2008, to be precise. And the number of employees with above-average deductibles is also up.
  • The increases in premiums and deductibles both outstrip increases in wages.

Between the lines: As deductibles and other out-of-pocket costs rise, more patients are more attuned to the high costs of care.

  • The underlying cost of health care services is growing relatively slowly right now, compared to historical trends.
  • But there’s a sense, at least among some liberal-leaning health care experts, that employers have just about maxed out their ability to shift more costs onto employees — meaning that once price increases start to pick up steam again, businesses and workers will both feel the pain quickly.