Survey: Family Health Premiums up 3%, but Workers’ Share Jumps 14%

The annual Kaiser Family Foundation Employer Benefits Survey is out, and to absolutely no one’s surprise, it shows that health care costs and coverage increased in 2010.

What I do find a little surprising is that the total premium amounts for employer-sponsored health insurance (the total of what both employers and their employees pay for coverage) went up a lot less than most people expected – 5 percent for individual coverage and 3 percent for families. Given all the talk about health care increases approaching double digits (or more), that’s a fairly reasonable increase.

But, workers on average are paying a much greater share of the overall costs (nearly $4,000) toward the cost of family health coverage – an increase of 14 percent, or $482, above what they paid in 2009, according to the benchmark 2010 Kaiser/HRET Employer Health Benefits Survey. In comparison, total premiums for family coverage, including what employers themselves contribute, rose a modest 3 percent to $13,770.

Here is how the Kaiser Family Foundation explains this survey:

This annual survey of employers provides a detailed look at trends in employer-sponsored health coverage, including premiums, employee contributions, cost-sharing provisions, and other relevant information. The survey continued to document the prevalence of high-deductible health plans associated with a savings option and included questions on wellness benefits and health risk assessments. The 2010 survey included 3,143 randomly selected public and private firms with three or more employees (2,046 of which responded to the full survey and 1,097 of which responded to an additional question about offering coverage). Researchers at the Kaiser Family Foundation, the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago, and Health Research & Educational Trust designed and analyzed the survey.”

I’ve broken out a few of the highlights of the 2010 Kaiser Family Foundation survey, but you should take a look at it yourself (here is the executive summary) :

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  • The average annual premiums for employer-sponsored health insurance in 2010 are $5,049 for single coverage and $13,770 for family coverage. This is 5 percent higher than in 2009 for single coverage (when it was $4,824), and 3 percent higher for family coverage (when it was $13,375).
  • Average premiums for family coverage are lower for workers in small firms (3–199 workers) than for workers in large firms (200 or more workers — $13,250 vs. $14,038).
  • In 2010, covered workers contributed a greater share of the total premium — a notable change from the steady share workers have paid on average over the past decade.
  • Covered workers on average contributed 19 percent of the total premium for single coverage (up from 17 percent in 2009) and 30 percent for family coverage (up from 27 percent in 2009).
  • Looking at dollar amounts, the average annual worker contributions are $899 for single coverage and $3,997 for family coverage, up from $779 and $3,515 in 2009 respectively.
  • Workers in small firms (3–199 workers) contribute about the same amount as workers in large firms (200 or more workers) — $865 vs. $917 – but they contribute significantly more for family coverage ($4,665 vs. $3,652).
  • Some 69 percent of firms are offering health benefits in 2010, up significantly from 60 percent in 2009. The change is largely due to a 13 percentage point increase in health care offerings among very small firms with three to nine (3-9) workers.
  • Almost three out of four (74 percent) of employers that offer health benefits also offer at least one or more wellness programs, such as weight loss programs, gym memberships discount or on-site exercise facilities, smoking cessation programs, personal health coaching, classes in nutrition and health living, or web-based resources for healthy living.
  • Preferred Provider Organizations (PPOs) continue to dominate the employer market, enrolling 58 percent of covered workers. Average PPO family premiums topped $14,000 annually in 2010.
  • In response to the economic downturn, 30 percent of employers say they reduced the scope of health benefits or increased cost sharing, and 23 percent report increasing the amount employees pay for coverage, the survey finds.

Here’s the bottom line, and something to think about with the anticipation that health care reform (Obamacare) will raise costs even more: Since 2005, workers’ contributions to premiums have gone up 47 percent, while overall premiums rose 27 percent, wages increased 18 percent, and inflation rose 12 percent.

Some will see that as the reason why we need health care reform; others will see it as proof of the government’s meddling in our free market system.

However you see it, the Kaiser Family Foundation Employer Benefits Survey will give you  a lot of ammunition to make your case either way.

John Hollon is Editor-at-Large at ERE Media and was the founding Editor of A longtime newspaper, magazine, and business journal editor, John has deep roots in the talent management space. He's the former Editor of Workforce Management magazine and, served as Editor of RecruitingDaily, and was Vice President for Content at HR technology firm Checkster. An award-winning journalist, John has written extensively about HR, talent management, leadership, and smart business practices, including for the popular Fistful of Talent blog. Contact him at, connect with him on LinkedIn, or follow him on Twitter @johnhollon.


1 Comment on “Survey: Family Health Premiums up 3%, but Workers’ Share Jumps 14%

  1. This is how Obamacare works. Make sure employees get hit with higher premiums so they will be forced to clamor for single payer.

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