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Each year, the Kaiser Family Foundation and the Health Research & Educational Trust (HRET) conduct a survey to examine employer-sponsored health benefit trends.  We will summarize the main points from the 2017 survey and discusses how it can affect employers. 

Health Insurance Premiums

In 2017, the average premium rose 4%, equaling $6,690,  for single coverage and 3%, equaling $18,764, for family coverage. Premiums for high deductible plan high deductible plans with a savings option (HDHP/SOs) were noticeably lower than the average premiums. The HDHP/SO annual premiums for single coverage averaged $6,024 while family coverage averaged $17,581 per year.

The premium for family coverage was, on average, lower at small employers (3-199) than at large employers- $17,615 compared to $19,235, yet premium costs varied widely across industry and regions. An average of 17% of workers with family coverage had an annual premium of $22,517 compared to 21% of workers who enrolled in family plans that cost $15,011 annually. 

Worker Contributions

On average for the year, worker contribution was 18% for single coverage and 31% for family coverage, although those percentages went up to 23% and 37% at organizations with a high percentage of low wage employees. 

In terms of dollars, workers contribute $1,214 for single coverage and $5,714 for family coverage toward their premiums. Workers enrolled in HDHP/SOs contributed less on average, paying $1,020 for single coverage and $4,599 for family coverage.

Plan Enrollment

The following were the most common plan types for this year:

  • Preferred Provider Organizations (PPO's)- 48%
  • High Deductible Health Plan with Savings Option (HDHP/SO)- 28%
  • Health Maintenance Organizations (HMOs)- 14%
  • Point of Service (POS)- 10%
  • Indemnity Plans- <1%

PPO Enrollment has decreased by 8% over the last 5 years, and enrollment in HDHP/SOs has risen by 9% over that same period.

Employee Cost Sharing

Most employees pay a share of their health care costs and 81% had a general annual deductible for single coverage this year.  51% of employees had a deductible of $1,000 or more for single coverage, while the overall average deductible was $1,221.  The prevalence of HDHP/SOs has contributed to the increase of the deductible amounts. 

Even without a deductible, the majority of employees cover some portion of the cost from their in-network physician visits.  For example, 71% have a copayment for primary doctor visits and 22% have coinsurance. 

Nearly all workers are covered by a plan with an out-of-pocket maximum, but the costs vary. About 57% of employees with single coverage have an out of pocket maximum of over $3,000 and 18% have $6,000 or more. 

Availability of Employer-sponsored Coverage

Only about 40% of very small employers (3-9 employees) offer health coverage to their employees while virtually every large employer (1,000 or more employees) offer coverage options. 

Health and Wellness Promotion Programs

Wellness programs help employees improve their lifestyle and avoid unhealthy habits.  Small and large employers both offer wellness programs, with 58% of small employers and 85% of large employers offering at least one program.  Programs vary in topic and include subjects like smoking cessation, weight management and lifestyle coaching.  

Of these large employers, 32% offer participation incentives like gift cards or merchandise.  Only a portion of employers (8% of small employers and 14% of large employers) reported using wearable devices like Fitbits or Apple Watches to gather health data.


Over half of large employers have embraced telemedicine, with 63% offering health care services through this method.  Of these employers, 33% offer financial incentives to receive health care services this way, opposed to an in-person physician visit. 


Similar to last year, 15% of workers with small employers are elected in plans either partially or entirely self-funded plans, compared to 79% of workers with large employers.  Despite conversations about insurers offering more self-funded plans to small employers, there has not been a noticeable increase in their enrollment. 

Supplemental and Voluntary Benefits

Many employers offering health benefits also offer supplemental benefits, like dental or vision insurance. 

  • Dental- 67% of small employers and 97% of large employers
  • Vision- 47% of small employers and 82% of large employers
  • Critical illness- 23% of small employers and 46% of large employers
  • Hospital Indemnity- 16% of small employers and 28% of large employers
  • Long-term Care- 16% of small employers and 25% of large employers 

Across all employers, dental and vision benefits are much more likely to be subsidized, with employers contributing 67% and 54% of costs, respectively. By comparison, only 3% of employers contribute to critical illness and 5% toward hospital indemnity.


As of now, the market is stable.  Continue to check in with us for up to date information regarding employee benefits and the ACA.  Please contact your broker for additional information.  If you are not a current client, please feel free to contact us to see how we can help you. Call us or email us


Sources: Kaiser Family Foundation, Health Research & Educational Trust, Zywave

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