Nov. 11, 2021 -- Family health insurance obtained through an employer now tops more than $22,000 per year on average, according to new survey results by the Kaiser Family Foundation.

Employees pay for about $6,000 of those costs, and companies cover the rest, the 2021 Kaiser Family Foundation Employer Health Benefits Survey found. The average annual premium rose 4% this year to $22,221.

The average annual premium for a single worker in 2021 rose to $7,739, which is also up 4%. Workers pay about $1,300, and employers cover the rest.

Companies realize that their plans aren’t affordable, particularly for lower-paid workers, Gary Claxton, a senior vice president at Kaiser, told CNN. But employers don’t see options for offering good benefits at lower prices, he noted.

“They do know these plans are expensive and hard for their employees to use,” Claxton said. “Given the cost of health care in this country, it’s pretty difficult to fashion good benefits at a lower cost for employees, particularly those at a lower and moderate wage.”

About 155 million Americans rely on employer-sponsored coverage, with premiums on the rise during the past decade, Kaiser reported. Since 2011, average family premiums have increased 47% -- more than wages or inflation, which rose 31% and 19%, respectively.

The average deductible is $1,669 for workers who have an annual deductible before insurance covers costs, the survey found. That’s similar to last year but up 68% during the past decade.

During the pandemic, nearly 4 in 10 employers made changes in benefits for mental health and telemedicine, the survey found. Companies reported that they saw an increase in employees seeking mental health and substance abuse services. Employers with more than 1,000 workers saw the biggest jump -- at 38%.

More than half of companies with at least 50 workers said they made changes to their wellness programs during the pandemic, including expansion of online counseling services, changes to accommodate people working from home, and new digital programs such as apps.

“The expansion of telemedicine and mental health benefits were important in meeting the needs of employees and their families in difficult times,” Claxton and co-authors wrote in a statement.

The peer-reviewed journal Health Affairs published key findings and comments from the authors on Wednesday.

Many workers are now selecting their health insurance plans for 2022 as part of their companies’ open enrollment periods, CNN reported. Employers project that health benefit costs will increase about 5% and employee contributions will increase about 2%.

Show Sources

Kaiser Family Foundation: “2021 Employer Health Benefits Survey,” “Average Family Premiums Rose 4% This Year to Top $22,000; Employers Boost Mental Health and Telemedicine amid COVID-19 Pandemic, Benchmark KFF Survey Finds.”

CNN: “Family health care coverage at work tops $22,000 a year.”

Health Affairs: “Health Benefits In 2021: Employer Programs Evolving In Response To The COVID-19 Pandemic.”

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