A new study has found that the average annual premium for a group family health plan has exceeded $20,000 for the first time in 2019, up 5% from 2018.

The average premium for single coverage plans in 2019 is $7,188, up 4% from the year prior, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation’s annual report on employer coverage.

The costs of high-deductible health plans are only slightly less than the average. The average premiums for covered workers in HDHPs with an attached health savings account are $6,412 for single coverage and $18,980 for family coverage.

Increasingly, workers are picking up a larger portion of the health care and insurance tab. In 2019, they are paying $6,015 on average in premiums for family coverage, or about 29% of the total tab. Workers with individual coverage contribute 17.3% toward the total premium.

Additionally, the average deductible for single coverage is $1,655 in 2019, which is unchanged from the year prior, however, the deductible is often higher for workers in small firms ($2,271) compared to large businesses ($1,412).

The average annual deductible among covered workers with a deductible has increased 36% over the last five years and 100% over the last 10 years, according to the report.

Also, 66% of workers have coinsurance and 14% have a copayment for hospital admissions. The average coinsurance rate for a hospital admission is 20%, and the average copayment is $326 per hospital admission.

Another survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation and the Los Angeles Times found that 40% of group health plan enrollees had difficulty affording health insurance or health care, or had problems paying medical bills.

And close to 50% said that they or a family member had skipped or postponed getting health care or prescriptions in the past year due to costs.

Easing the burden

There are steps you can take to ease the burden on both your company and your employees.

Consider plans with telemedicine – More and more employers (69% of firms with 50 or more workers) are offering health plans that cover the provision of health care services through telemedicine. Telemedicine can greatly reduce the cost of care in terms of price for medical visits, as well as the time involved for the employee to travel to the doctor.

Telemedicine can include video chat and remote monitoring.

Utilizing retail health clinics – More health plans will pay for services rendered by retail clinics, like those located in pharmacies, supermarkets and retail stores. These clinics are often staffed by nurse practitioners or physician assistants and treat minor illnesses and provide preventative services. They can greatly reduce the cost of care for these kinds of visits outside normal hospital systems.

Plans with narrow networks – If a health plan can contract with fewer doctors and specialists, there is often less outlay for care. At this point, the jury is still out on exactly how much can be saved, but there are also drawbacks such as:

  • Disruption of provider relationships
  • Employee backlash
  • Reduced access or convenience for employees
  • Lack of specialists.

Tiered or high-performance networks – These networks typically group providers in the network based on the cost, quality and/or efficiency of the care they deliver and use financial incentives to encourage enrollees to use providers on the preferred tier.