Human Resources

High Deductibles Spur Health Cost Shift to Workers

A Kaiser survey finds increases in deductibles and premium contributions have easily outstripped wage growth since 2010.
Matthew HellerSeptember 24, 2015
High Deductibles Spur Health Cost Shift to Workers

Almost a quarter of U.S. workers with employer health benefits are now enrolled in high-deductible plans and 81% of plans require works to pay out of pocket before their coverage kicks in, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.

A decade ago, only 55% of plans even had a deductible and enrollment in high-deductible (HDHP) plans has nearly doubled since 2010, Kaiser said in a report that confirms deductibles may be slowing the growth of health care costs for employers — but at the expense of employees.

Deductibles have increased 67% over the past five years and the average deductible amount for single coverage has increased from $917 to $1,318. High-deductible plans require workers to pay more than $1,300 out of pocket.

Adding to the pinch on workers’ wallets, they contributed an average of $868 in 2015 for HDHP single coverage and $3,917 for family coverage. Contributions to all plans for family coverage have risen 24% since 2010.

Wages, on the other hand, have grown only 10% during the same time period.

“If wages were keeping up with the growth in cost sharing, it wouldn’t be as big of a deal for people,” Drew Altman, president of the Kaiser Family Foundation, told Money. “But the pain level is significant. It really affects family budgets.”

The consulting firm Mercer recently reported that for more than 1,200 employers, health benefit cost per employee will rise by 4.2% on average in 2016 after companies make changes such as raising deductibles or switching carriers. It attributed the relatively slower cost growth in part to the widespread adoption of high-deductible plans, whose costs are roughly 20% lower than more traditional plans.

Kaiser also found that once workers have surpassed their deductibles, they pay an average $24 copay for a primary care office visit, $37 for a specialty care office visit, and $308 for a hospital admission.