Health insurance premiums climbed by 4% in 2021

The annual cost for employer-sponsored health insurance rose modestly over the past year, with the average premium for single coverage hitting $7,739 a year and $22,221 for a family plan, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation’s 2021 Employer Health Benefits Survey. 

The average cost of both single and family coverage rose about 4% year over year, matching the 5% rise in workers’ wages.

Although the recent rise in premium prices is modest compared to previous decades (where price jumps were in the double digits annually), the cost of health care still has risen far more quickly than wages or inflation over time. Since 2011, for example, family health insurance premiums have increased 47% compared to the 31% increase in wages and the 19% inflation growth. 

"Premiums are growing a little slower in the last five years, in the last 10 years, than they did before. It's just kind of a two-edged sword, right? Slower than our old growth, but still, over time, faster than wages and inflation, and we've got to figure something out about that," says Matthew Rae, a coauthor on the report and associate director of KFF’s Program on the Health Care Marketplace.

Of the 155 million Americans enrolled in an employer-sponsored health plan, workers typically pay a smaller portion of the overall cost. This year, employees were on the hook for an average of 17% of the total premium cost, or $1,299 a year, for an individual plan and 28%, or $5,969, for a family plan. On a monthly basis, that breaks down to $108 for individual workers and $497 for those enrolled in family coverage. 

The cost carried by workers does vary by employer, and Americans working at smaller companies generally contribute a higher share of the premium costs. When it comes to family coverage, for example, workers at small firms pay about 37% of the premium compared to those employed at larger companies, who pay about 24% of the cost.

The majority of workers, 85%, also have an annual deductible—$1,669 on average—that must be met before most services are paid for by the plan. That’s up from about 74% of workers who had a deductible 10 years ago. Overall, the size of deductibles has risen about 68% over the course of a decade; the average deductible was just $991 in 2011.

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