A meteoric rise in worker health costs has slowed — but they’re already ‘egregious,’ advisor says

by | Nov 6, 2023 | Financial

Morsa Images | Digitalvision | Getty ImagesCosts for some key health insurance components have slowed for workers in recent years. While the deceleration is a positive trend, many workers likely still find current prices unaffordable, experts said.”Yes, it’s slowed,” said Carolyn McClanahan, a physician and certified financial planner, and founder of Life Planning Partners in Jacksonville, Florida. “But it’s already egregious for the average person.”Employer-sponsored health plans have many moving parts that can affect workers’ wallets. For example, workers get premiums deducted from each paycheck. Visiting the doctor generally comes with cost-sharing, like co-payments, deductibles and out-of-pocket maximums.More from Personal Finance:Who may get Matthew Perry’s millions in ‘Friends’ residuals nowSocial Security changes may aid those not working till full retirement age200,000 high school seniors to get automatic college acceptance lettersThe rise in worker premiums has somewhat mitigated.Workers pay $1,401 in total premiums in 2023, up 18% from 2018, according to KFF, a nonprofit health-care data provider. They increased by an equivalent amount from 2013 to 2018, but had swelled by 39% from 2008 to 2013.The dynamic is more pronounced for deductibles and out-of-pocket maximums.A deductible is the annual sum a consumer must pay out of pocket before a health insurer starts to pay for services.Single workers have a $1,735 average deductible in 2023, according to KFF. (This cost is for employer-sponsored health plans and assumes consumers receive in-network care.)The average deductible has grown by 10.3% in the past five years, up from $1,573 in 2018. However, that rate has slowed significantly relative to the recent past: Deductibles rose by 38.6% from 2013 to 2018, and by 54.4% from 2008 to 2013, for example, according to KFF data.Prior to 2018, deductibles “were taking off,” said Matthew Rae, associate director of KFF’s health-care marketplace program and co-author of its annual health benefits survey.  How out-of-pocket maximums have changedThe dynamic is similar for out-of-pocket maximums, the annual limit on a worker’s cost-sharing for the year. After hitting this limit, insurers can’t ask for more co-pays, co-insurance or deductibles, for example.The out-of-pocket maximum is “what really matters for people who spend a lot” on health care, Rae said.In 2023, 13% of single workers have an out-of-pocket maximum of less than $2 …

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