How health insurance eats your paycheck

Dec 19, 2012

Health care is probably taking a bigger chunk out of your paycheck than it was a decade ago. The rising cost of insurance and deductibles has been dramatic whether you work for a small business or a large one.

The average deductible – the amount you pay your doctor or hospital before insurance picks up the cost – has doubled since 2003 in Washington state, and across the nation. It’s common to pay nearly $1,000 out-of-pocket for an individual, and more than $2,000 for a  family, according to a report published by the nonprofit Commonwealth Fund, which supports health care reform.

"Deductibles have more than doubled across the nation in these 8 years [2003-2011]," says Cathy Schoen [shane], the lead author of a new report. "By 2011, high deductibles are the norm, rather than the exception."

At the same time, the amount that comes out of every paycheck for insurance, called the monthly premium, is also up. 

The total cost of the average family’s insurance is nearly one-fifth of their income, according to the report

The authors say the new federal Affordable Care Act should help slow the trend of rising costs. They credit the new health-insurance exchanges, where individuals and smaller businesses will be able to shop for insurance, and the push toward more integrated medical systems, which they envision as keeping a lid on medical payments. 

Other groups say neither of these changes are proven to lower costs, and they fear the new regulations could make insurance even more expensive, especially in the short-run.