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Expand chart
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.

Go deeper

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Top general: U.S. losing time to deter China

Stanley McChrystal. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

Stanley McChrystal, a top retired general and Biden adviser, tells Axios that "China's military capacity has risen much faster than people appreciate," and the U.S. is running out of time to counterbalance that in Asia and prevent a scenario such as it seizing Taiwan.

Why it matters: McChrystal, the former commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, recently briefed the president-elect as part of his cabinet of diplomatic and national security advisers. President-elect Joe Biden is considering which Trump- or Obama-era approaches to keep or discard, and what new strategies to pursue.

Progressives shift focus from Biden's Cabinet to his policy agenda

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Some progressives tell Axios they believe the window for influencing President-elect Joe Biden’s Cabinet selections has closed, and they’re shifting focus to policy — hoping to shape Biden's agenda even before he’s sworn in.

Why it matters: The left wing of the party often draws attention for its protests, petitions and tweets, but this deliberate move reflects a determination to move beyond some fights they won't win to engage with Biden strategically, and over the long term.

Dave Lawler, author of World
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Venezuela's predictable elections herald an uncertain future

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Venezuelans will go to the polls on Sunday, Nicolás Maduro will complete his takeover of the last opposition-held body, and much of the world will refuse to recognize the results.

The big picture: The U.S. and dozens of other countries have backed an opposition boycott of the National Assembly elections on the grounds that — given Maduro's tactics (like tying jobs and welfare benefits to voting), track record, and control of the National Electoral Council — they will be neither free nor fair.