Health Insurance Premiums More Than Doubled Since 1999, Report Finds

Premiums for employer-sponsored health insurance rose a modest 5 percent this year, to $12,680 annually for family coverage, but they have more than doubled since 1999, when total family premiums stood at $5,791, a new report from the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation and the Health Research and Educational Trust finds.

Published in the latest issue of Health Affairs, the report, Employer Health Benefits: 2008 Annual Survey (214 pages, PDF), found that this year employees on average are paying $3,354 out of their paychecks to cover their share of insurance costs, up from $1,543 in 1999. The numbers have not been adjusted for inflation; however, workers' wages have increased 34 percent since 1999, while general inflation has risen 29 percent.

This year, many workers are facing higher deductibles in their plans, including a growing number with general plan deductibles of at least $1,000 — 18 percent of all covered workers in 2008, up from 12 percent last year. The shift has been most dramatic for workers in small businesses (those with three to 199 workers), where 35 percent of covered workers must pay at least $1,000 out of pocket before their plan generally will start to pay a share of their healthcare bills — rising from 21 percent last year. For workers facing deductibles in Preferred Provider Organizations, the most common type of plan, the average deductible rose to $560 in 2008, up nearly $100 from 2007.

"With rising deductibles, more and more people face a substantial amount out of pocket for their health care before their insurance fully kicks in," said Drew Altman, president and CEO of the Kaiser Family Foundation. "Health insurance is steadily becoming less comprehensive, and it's no wonder that in today's tough economic climate many families count health care costs as one of their top pocketbook issues."