The Slowdown in Employer Insurance Cost Growth: Why Many Workers Still Feel the Pinch

by Sara R. Collins; David C. Radley; Sophie Beutel; Munira Z. Gunja

Oct 26, 2016

Although predictions that the Affordable Care Act (ACA) would lead to reductions in employer-sponsored health coverage have not been realized, some of the law's critics maintain the ACA is nevertheless driving higher premium and deductible costs for businesses and their workers.

Goal: To compare cost growth in employer-sponsored health insurance before and after 2010, when the ACA was enacted, and to compare changes in these costs relative to changes in workers' incomes.

Methods: The authors analyzed federal Medical Expenditure Panel Survey data to compare cost trends over the 10-year period from 2006 to 2015.

Key findings and conclusions: Compared to the five years leading up to the ACA, premium growth for single health insurance policies offered by employers slowed both in the nation overall and in 33 states and the District of Columbia. There has been a similar slowdown in growth in the amounts employees contribute to health plan costs. Yet many families feel pinched by their health care costs: despite a recent surge, income growth has not kept pace in many areas of the U.S. Employee contributions to premiums and deductibles amounted to 10.1 percent of U.S. median income in 2015, compared to 6.5 percent in 2006. These costs are higher relative to income in many southeastern and southern states, where incomes are below the national average.

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