Sep 19, 2017

Workers are shouldering more of their health care costs

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.

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Italy reports lowest number of new coronavirus cases since February

Italy’s aerobatic team Frecce Tricolori fly over Milan in Duomo Square on May 25. Photo: Francesco Prandoni/Getty Images

The Italian government reported 300 new cases of coronavirus on Monday, the lowest daily increase since Feb. 29.

Why it matters: Italy, the first country in Europe to implement a nationwide lockdown after emerging as a hotspot in March, appears to have finally weathered its coronavirus outbreak. Italy has reported nearly 33,000 total deaths, the third-highest total behind the U.S. and U.K.

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 2 p.m. ET: 5,453,784 — Total deaths: 345,886 — Total recoveries — 2,191,310Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 2 p.m. ET: 1,651,254 — Total deaths: 97,850 — Total recoveries: 366,736 — Total tested: 14,163,915Map.
  3. World: Top Boris Johnson aide defends himself after allegations he broke U.K. lockdown — WHO suspends trial of hydroxychloroquine over safety concerns.
  4. 2020: Trump threatens to move Republican convention from North Carolina — Joe Biden makes first public appearance in two months.
  5. Public health: Officials are urging Americans to wear masks over Memorial Day.
  6. Economy: White House economic adviser Kevin Hassett says it's possible the unemployment rate could still be in double digits by November's election — Charities refocus their efforts to fill gaps left by government.
  7. What should I do? Hydroxychloroquine questions answeredTraveling, asthma, dishes, disinfectants and being contagiousMasks, lending books and self-isolatingExercise, laundry, what counts as soap — Pets, moving and personal healthAnswers about the virus from Axios expertsWhat to know about social distancingHow to minimize your risk.
  8. Other resources: CDC on how to avoid the virus, what to do if you get it, the right mask to wear.

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Updated 1 hour ago - Politics & Policy

Joe Biden makes first public appearance in over two months

Photo: Oliver Douliery/AFP via Getty Images

Former Vice President Joe Biden made his first in-person appearance in over two months on Monday to honor Memorial Day by laying a wreath at a Delaware veterans park, AP reports.

Why it matters: Biden, the Democratic Party's presumptive nominee, has taken the unprecedented step of campaigning from his home during the coronavirus pandemic, ever since canceling a rally in Cleveland on March 10.