The 153 million Americans who get health insurance through work can expect to pay more next year.
Employers, meanwhile, expect to pay 6.4% more next year, compounding a similar increase last year. The cost of offering a single employee coverage was more than $8,000 in 2023 and well over twice that for a family plan.
While inflation is a major driver of rising prices, several other factors also play a role:
- Increased use of preventive health care services
- A surge of treatments and surgeries postponed until after the COVID-19 pandemic
- Enhanced mental health service offerings
- Improved coverage for innovative gene therapies and new prescription drugs
In short, rising prices present a significant burden but may also reflect a trend of more patients prioritizing their health after the pandemic.
Patients Face Tough Choices, Higher Costs
Patients who get insurance through their employers should expect to contribute an extra $500 for monthly premiums next year, bringing their annual total to $6,575 on average. On top of those costs, patients will still have to cover copays for doctor visits, lab tests and prescriptions.
What exactly will these higher costs mean for patients?
Some may opt for a high-deductible health plan, which offers lower monthly premiums. But these plans are offset by higher out-of-pocket costs when patients visit their health care provider, fill a prescription or require emergency care. For people with chronic conditions or complex diseases, high-deductible plans can be risky.
Other patients may find themselves struggling to pay other monthly expenses, such as groceries, gas or rent, which have also ballooned due to inflation.
Employers Try to Reduce Costs While Maintaining Care
Employers are expected to absorb most of the health insurance cost increase, as they did in 2023. But even as they prepare to pay more for each covered employee, businesses are shopping around, asking insurers to compete on rates and program quality.
Employers may also push patients toward centers of excellence or narrow the network of covered health care providers. The latter may help employers reduce costs but could also limit patients’ access to specialists or long-time health care providers with whom they’ve established a trusted relationship.
As day-to-day life grows more expensive for many Americans, the need to balance health care costs and health care access has never been greater.