Annual premiums for family health coverage remained relatively flat in 2022, according to an analysis by the Kaiser Family Foundation, even as wages and inflation soared.
Annual family premiums for employer-sponsored health insurance averaged $22,463 this year, up only about 1 percent from last year, the 2022 benchmark KFF Employer Health Benefits Survey found. Nearly 159 million people have insurance through their jobs.
The findings were surprising, the survey noted, as inflation rose 8 percent and wages rose 6.7 percent.
The lower premium increase could have come because employer costs for this year were largely set last year, before inflation became a major economic concern and after the COVID-19 pandemic led to a temporary slowdown in utilization of health care services.
The inflation in 2022 may push prices up, leading to premium increases in the upcoming year. According to accompanying research published in the journal Health Affairs, premium increases may be even higher than the 3–4 percentage points that have been seen in recent years.
“Employers are already concerned about what they pay for health premiums, but this could be the calm before the storm, as recent inflation suggests that larger increases are imminent,” KFF President and CEO Drew Altman said in a statement. “Given the tight labor market and rising wages, it will be tough for employers to shift costs onto workers when costs spike.”
While families and individuals paid similar amounts for coverage over the past year, premiums have increased by 20 percent over the past five years, KFF said.
But there is a disparity in contributions of workers at smaller and large employers. Workers at small firms (with less than 200 workers) on average pay $7,556 out of their paychecks annually for family coverage, nearly $2,000 more than workers at larger firms, who average $5,580 annually.
The annual survey of more than 2,100 small and large employers also found that mental health coverage remains a priority, nearly three years after the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In 2022, 45 percent of large employers saw an increase in the share of employees seeking mental health services, and 43 percent were at least somewhat concerned with the growth of substance use conditions among their employees.
Yet many employers expressed concern about the breadth of their provider networks for those with mental health conditions.
Over 80 percent of firms said that there were enough primary care providers in the plan networks, but only 44 percent of employers said that there is a sufficient number of behavioral health providers in the plan networks to provide timely access to services for workers and their family members.