Study: Employer-sponsored health insurance getting more expensive


“Costs are going up, you’re not controlling them, and the insurance that your employees are getting isn’t protecting them from the cost of illness nearly as well as it used to.”

Dr. David Blumenthal, President, The Commonwealth Fund

  • Healthcare

OKLAHOMA CITY – Employer-sponsored health insurance has gotten progressively more expensive, and average annual increases in employee health insurance premiums and deductibles exceeded median income in every state over the past decade, research shows.

The Commonwealth Fund has calculated that total out-of-pocket employee costs for premiums and deductibles equaled an average of $7,311 in Oklahoma last year. That amounted to 12.3% of median income in this state in 2018, compared to 9.7% in 2008. Nationally, the average last year was 11.5%.


Nationwide, the combined average of premiums and deductibles climbed to $7,388 in 2018. The combined average exceeded $8,000 in nine states, including Texas ($8,057). Average employee premium contributions and deductibles exceeded 10% of median income in 42 states last year, according to The Commonwealth Fund. Besides Oklahoma, those included Texas (13.5%), Arkansas (14.4%), Kansas (10.5%), New Mexico, (13.5%) and Missouri (11.5%). Washington state was the lowest, at 7.7%, and Mississippi was the highest, at 16.5%.

U.S. workers contributed about 21% of the overall premium for single plans and 28% for family plans in 2018; in Oklahoma, those ratios were 20% for single plans and 28% for family plans. In some states the share is much higher: workers were responsible for a third of their family plan premiums in Louisiana, Mississippi, Nevada, North Carolina and Virginia.

The average annual employee premium contribution for family coverage in 2018 was $5,306 in Oklahoma, $125 less than the national average of $5,431. The averages in other states were: Texas, $5,964; Arkansas, $5,728; Kansas, $5,248; Mis- souri, $5,003; New Mexico, $4,723; Mississippi, $5,680; Louisiana, $6,288; Virginia, $6,597; and Washington state, $3,862.

The average annual premium for a single worker for employer-sponsored health insurance in Oklahoma in 2018 was $1,293, compared to the national average of $1,427. In Texas, a single employee paid an average of $1,413 for employer-sponsored health insurance; in New Mexico, $1,558; Arkansas, $1,375; and Missouri, $1,403.

The average deductible for an employer-sponsored health insurance plan in Oklahoma last year was $1,683 for single coverage and $2,873 for a family plan. The statistics were derived from data compiled in the federal Medical Expenditure Panel Survey–Insurance Component (MEPS–IC), which surveyed more than 40,000 private-sector employers in 2018 on their health insurance plans.

An estimated 164 million people under age 65, or roughly half the population of the United States, have insurance through employers. The Commonwealth Fund is a national philanthropy engaged in independent research on health and social policy issues. If the U.S. health system’s funding were a separate country, it would be the fifth-largest gross domestic product in the world, behind only the U.S., China, Japan and Germany, according to Dr. David Blumenthal, president of The Commonwealth Fund. 

“We’re losing the battle to manage health-care costs,” Blumenthal claimed in a speech earlier this year to the Greater Philadelphia Business Coalition on Health. “Costs are going up, you’re not controlling them, and the insurance that your employees are getting isn’t protecting them from the cost of illness nearly as well as it used to.” Research has shown that as in-patient utilization declined and out-patient utilization remained flat, “the prices for both have skyrocketed,” he said. “Prices are going up because they can.” There is effectively no competition in health care in fully 90% of the nation, he said.

Another factor contributing to rising prices is the lack of transparency, Blumenthal said. There is no other market where the consumer is not allowed to see the price of something before they buy it, he said. “A market for health care ... just doesn’t exist,” Blumenthal said. “Prices aren’t known and there’s no competition.”