Rising health-care costs are eating up the wage gains won by American workers, who are being asked by their employers to pick up more of the heftier tab.
The average worker is shelling out $5,714 for a family health-insurance plan this year, 30 percent of the total $18,764 cost, according to an annual study from the Kaiser Family Foundation and the Health Research & Education Trust released on Tuesday. Five years ago, workers shouldered $4,316 of the $15,745 cost, or 27 percent.
The cost of buying health coverage at work has increased faster than wages and inflation for years, pressuring household budgets. The squeeze comes as debate in Washington has focused on the smaller individual insurance market reshaped by the Affordable Care Act, which is the target of a renewed repeal effort in the Senate.
Over the past five years, premiums for an employer-provided family insurance plan have climbed 19 percent, while worker pay increased 12 percent, data from Kaiser and the federal government shows. The Labor Department’s consumer-price index, the most widely watched U.S. price gauge, climbed 6 percent in that time.
Climbing health-care costs tend to weigh on workers’ wages, rather than corporate profits, said Thomas Buchmueller, a health economist at the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business.
“When health-care costs go up faster, that really takes a bite out of wages more than profits,” Buchmueller said. “We’re getting more of our compensation in the form of health insurance, and that doesn’t make us feel richer, because you can’t take it to the store. ”