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Employer-based market

An estimated 155 million persons under the age 65 were covered under health insurance plans provided by their employers in 2016. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimated that the health insurance premium for single coverage would be $6,400 and family coverage would be $15,500 in 2016. The annual rate of increase in premiums has generally slowed after 2000, as part of the trend of lower annual healthcare cost increases. The Federal Government subsidizes the employer-based market by an estimated $250 billion per year (about $1,612 per person covered in the employer market), by excluding health insurance premiums from employee income. This subsidy encourages people to buy more extensive coverage (which places upward pressure on average premiums), while also encouraging more young, healthy people to enroll (which places downward pressure on premium prices). CBO estimates the net effect is to increase premiums 10-15% over an un-subsidized level.

The Kaiser Family Foundation estimated that family insurance premiums averaged $18,142 in 2016, up 3% from 2015, with workers paying $5,277 towards that cost and employers covering the remainder. Single coverage premiums were essentially unchanged from 2015 to 2016 at $6,435, with workers contributing $1,129 and employers covering the remainder.

The President's Council of Economic Advisors (CEA) described how annual cost increases have fallen in the employer market since 2000. Premiums for family coverage grew 5.6% from 2000-2010, but 3.1% from 2010-2016. The total premium plus estimated out-of-pocket costs (i.e., deductibles and co-payments) increased 5.1% from 2000-2010 but 2.4% from 2010-2016.

Affordable Care Act (ACA) marketplaces
Separate from the employer market are the ACA marketplaces, which covered an estimated 12 million persons in 2017 who individually obtain insurance (e.g., not as part of a business). The law is designed to pay subsidies in the form of premium tax credits to the individuals or families purchasing the insurance, based on income levels. Higher income consumers receive lower subsidies. While pre-subsidy prices rose considerably from 2016 to 2017, so did the subsidies, to reduce the after-subsidy cost to the consumer.

For example, a study published in 2016 found that the average requested 2017 premium increase among 40-year-old non-smokers was about 9 percent, according to an analysis of 17 cities, although Blue Cross Blue Shield proposed increases of 40 percent in Alabama and 60 percent in Texas. However, some or all of these costs are offset by subsidies, paid as tax credits. For example, the Kaiser Foundation reported that for the second-lowest cost "Silver plan" (a plan often selected and used as the benchmark for determining financial assistance), a 40-year old non-smoker making $30,000 per year would pay effectively the same amount in 2017 as they did in 2016 (about $208/month) after the subsidy/tax credit, despite large increases in the pre-subsidy price. This was consistent nationally. In other words, the subsidies increased along with the pre-subsidy price, fully offsetting the price increases.

This premium tax credit subsidy is separate from the cost sharing reductions subsidy discontinued in 2017 by President Donald Trump, an action which raised premiums in the ACA marketplaces by an estimated 20 percentage points above what otherwise would have occurred, for the 2018 plan year.


While health insurance premium cost increases have moderated in the employer market, some of this is because of insurance policies that have a higher deductible, co-payments and out-of-pocket maximums that shift costs from insurers to patients. In addition, many employees are choosing to combine a health savings account with higher deductible plans, making the impact of the ACA difficult to determine precisely.

For those who obtain their insurance through their employer ("group market"), a 2016 survey found that:

Deductibles grew by 63% from 2011 to 2016, while premiums increased 19% and worker earnings grew by 11%.
In 2016, 4 in 5 workers had an insurance deductible, which averaged $1,478. For firms with less than 200 employees, the deductible averaged $2,069.
The percentage of workers with a deductible of at least $1,000 grew from 10% in 2006 to 51% in 2016. The 2016 figure drops to 38% after taking employer contributions into account.
For the "non-group" market, of which two-thirds are covered by the ACA exchanges, a survey of 2015 data found that:

49% had individual deductibles of at least $1,500 ($3,000 for family), up from 36% in 2014.
Many marketplace enrollees qualify for cost-sharing subsidies that reduce their net deductible.
While about 75% of enrollees were "very satisfied" or "somewhat satisfied" with their choice of doctors and hospitals, only 50% had such satisfaction with their annual deductible.
While 52% of those covered by the ACA exchanges felt "well protected" by their insurance, in the group market 63% felt that way.

Prescription drugs

According to the OECD, U.S. prescription drug spending in 2015 was $1,162 per person on average, versus $807 for Canada, $766 for Germany, $668 for France, and $497 for the UK

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