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Annual premiums for more than 150 million Americans who get health insurance through their jobs increased only 3% on average this year, according to the latest employer survey data from the Kaiser Family Foundation and the Health Research & Educational Trust.

Yes, but: The tiny uptick was a shade higher than inflation and growth in wages, meaning health care is still eating a growing share of people's paychecks. The data also show that workers are shouldering a lot of those premium increases and are continuing to pay more out of pocket — indicating a steady, slow erosion of employer-based health insurance.

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The gritty details: The slow premium growth is good news for employees and companies, and it contrasts sharply with the Affordable Care Act marketplaces, which are separate from employer offerings and are facing much higher premium increases largely due to the uncertainty coming out of Washington.

Employer premiums have increased just 19% from 2012 to 2017, much lower than previous five-year spans. But that again has still been higher than the 6% inflation rate and 12% wage growth rate over the same time frame, according to the KFF/HRET survey data.

Despite the slow premium growth, employees have been bearing more of those costs over the past couple years:

  • The average premium of job-based coverage for a family in 2017 was $18,764, up 3.4% from 2016. The average premium for an individual this year was 4% higher at $6,690.
  • Employers paid for about 70% of that cost, but they have been passing more of the premium increases onto workers.
  • The amount companies paid toward family coverage only went up 1.4% in 2017, compared with 8.3% for employees. That's money that could have gone toward salaries.
  • The average annual deductible for families topped $1,500 this year and remained stagnant for individuals at $1,221.

Behind the trends: Health economists and policymakers have advocated for reducing the generosity of employer-based coverage, which they say encourages overconsumption of health care services and enjoys the largest tax break in the federal tax code. Companies have responded by offering high-deductible options and sometimes pairing those plans with tax-advantaged health savings accounts.

But higher deductibles and other forms of cost-sharing have increasingly exposed people to big bills from hospitals and doctors as well as high drug prices. Critics also say health savings accounts, which have spawned a separate industry, benefit high-income earners who can afford to set money aside tax-free.

Go deeper

Axios-Ipsos poll: People of color face more environmental threats

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Data: Axios/Ipsos poll; Note: ±2.5% margin of error; Chart: Sara Wise/Axios

Americans of color are much less likely than white Americans to experience good air quality or tap water or enough trees or green space in their communities, and they're more likely to face noise pollution and litter, a new Axios-Ipsos poll finds.

The big picture: Our national survey shows Black and Hispanic Americans are more likely than their white counterparts to live near major highways or industrial or manufacturing plants — and to have dealt in the past year with water-boil notices or power outages lasting more than 24 hours.

15 hours ago - Health

FDA advisory panel recommends Pfizer boosters for those 65 and older

A healthcare worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine at the Key Biscayne Community Center on Aug. 24, 2021. Photo: Eva Marie Uzcategui/Bloomberg via Getty Images

A key Food and Drug Administration advisory panel on Friday overwhelmingly voted against recommending Pfizer vaccine booster shots for younger Americans, but unanimously recommended approving the third shots for individuals 65 and older, as well as those at high-risk of severe COVID-19.

Why it matters: While the votes are non-binding, and the FDA must still make a final decision, Friday's move pours cold water on the Biden administration's plan to begin administering boosters to most individuals who received the Pfizer vaccine later this month.

16 hours ago - World

France recalls ambassadors from U.S. and Australia over submarine deal

Secretary of State Antony Blinken (L), French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian (C), and French ambassador to the U.S. Philippe Etienne. Photo: Nicholas Kamm/AFP via Getty Images

France has taken the extraordinary step of recalling its ambassadors to the U.S. and Australia after both countries blindsided their French allies with a new military pact and submarine contract, the French Foreign Ministry announced on Friday.

The backstory: While sealing an agreement with the U.S. and U.K. to acquire nuclear submarines, Australia ripped up an existing $90 billion submarine deal with France. That led senior French officials to accuse the U.S. of a "stab in the back."