Workers in the United States are increasingly putting more of their income towards the cost of their health insurance. According to a new analysis by health policy research group the Kaiser Family Foundation, health insurance deductibles have outpaced the average increase in a worker’s wages over the last five years. Roughly 80 percent of workers who receive their insurance through an employer now pay a deductible.
Since 2010, deductibles for health insurance have risen more than six times faster than workers’ wages. Deductibles for individual plans have risen from a yearly average of $900 in 2010 to more than $1,300 this year. Employees working for small businesses have an average deductible of $1,800 a year, while about 20 percent of workers have a deductible of $2,000 or more. Many of the insurance policies being sold under the federal health care law also rely on high deductibles to keep premiums low.
Some employers have increased the size of their deductibles in order to have workers shoulder more of their medical costs. Higher deductibles lower companies own costs and reduce what they take out of the employees’ pay for coverage. Many companies are now offering high-deductible plans accompanied by a savings account that the employee can fund to pay medical bills.
Employers also say the higher deductibles ensure workers have a financial stake in choosing their doctor or ordering a test, which should reduce unnecessary costs. A higher deductible increases the responsibility of the employee to decide whether a doctor’s visit or test at a certain facility is worth it.
As wages have stagnated, the steady increase in deductibles is squeezing workers who are already dealing with reduced financial stability. Consumers who have to pay the higher deductibles may feel they had little choice in the matter. Workers are feeling increasingly vulnerable to high medical bills as health care costs rise faster than inflation year after year. There is evidence that higher deductibles are making people postpone necessary care, even when they have serious conditions.