Family Health Coverage is the Costliest Employer Benefit (for the Employee)
3 min read •
30 sec brief
Of all the benefits employers are adding—from student loan repayment to paternity leave—the most expensive for the employee remains health insurance. Specifically, family health insurance coverage.
As health insurance costs have risen astronomically over the years, employers have looked for ways to rein in spending and a common source of savings has been shifting more of the cost-sharing burden to the employees. This has been especially true of small employers.
In 2018, all employers paid an average of $5,655 (82 percent) of the total annual cost for individual coverage for their employees and $13,927 (71 percent) of the cost for family coverage. That means the average employee spent $1,241 for the year for individual coverage and $5,689 to cover their family.
But if you worked at a small employer (an employer with 3-199 employees), you likely paid more. In 2018, small employers paid an average of 62 percent or $11,618 of the total annual cost of family coverage. Which means employees paid an average of $7,998 for the year.
If this seems expensive, that’s because it is. But if you’re one of the two percent of the population that needs brand-name or specialty drugs to manage a chronic condition or illness, you’ll have to pay even more.
No Out-of-Pocket Max for Fourth Tier and Specialty Drugs
Like anything healthcare-related, the most expensive benefit for you will depend on your circumstances. If you or a family member has a chronic condition that requires specialty or fourth-tier drugs (i.e. higher cost and mostly brand name prescriptions), you could end up paying $20,000 or more per year just for prescriptions alone. This is because many health insurance plans exclude specialty and fourth-tier drugs from their out-of-pocket maximums.
Here’s the Good News:
It’s a tight labor market. When employers have a tough time filling positions, they need to be creative with their benefit offerings to attract top talent. Numerous surveys have shown generous benefits as a top reason for taking one job over another (even if it meant a reduction in annual salary), and employers are listening.
They’re employing technological solutions in an effort to save money without transferring even more of the financial burden to their employees and they’re offering healthcare savings accounts like HRAs and HSAs as a way to make health insurance, prescriptions and overall medical care more affordable. They’re also offering other benefits like more generous parental leave and student loan repayments as a way to support their workforce.
Even if your company doesn’t offer any contribution toward your dependents’ health insurance premiums, it might still be cheaper to purchase a family plan under your employer-sponsored plan. This is because many employers are able to negotiate with the insurance company for cheaper rates—something an individual can’t do.
Regardless of your circumstance, the trick is to find a policy that meets your medical and financial needs. If your employer doesn’t offer one, you always have the option of purchasing a health plan in the marketplace.
About the author
Lauren Hargrave is a writer from San Francisco who focuses on technology, finance and wellness. She follows comedians like most people follow bands and believes an outdoor sweat session can cure almost any bad mood. She’s also been writing her first novel for so long, her mom doesn’t ask about it anymore.
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