Health insurance premiums continue to rise far faster than workers’ earnings and overall inflation

Today, the Kaiser Family Foundation and Health Research & Education Trust released their Employer Health Benefits 2011 Annual Survey. It’s full of great charts and graphics about the state of employer-sponsored health insurance premiums, costs to workers, types of plans, and much more.

The top line numbers alone are fairly shocking. Average family health insurance premiums rose from $13,770 in 2010 to $15,073 in 2011, up 9 percent. In 2010, total family premiums had only risen 3 percent, but the leading story then was about how employees were paying an increasing share of the total premium, on average 30 percent for family plans.

To put these numbers in perspective, Kaiser/HRET compares both total health insurance premiums and the portion of premiums paid for by workers to workers’ earnings and overall inflation from 1999 to 2011. Their figure, displayed below, illustrates how premiums have risen over three times faster than workers’ earnings and four times faster than overall inflation.

Click figure to enlarge

Given the high cost of employer-sponsored health insurance, it comes as no surprise that the share of non-elderly Americans with such coverage fell from 2000 to 2010, as shown in the Census data released earlier this month. The combination of a bad economy, general lack of bargaining power among workers, and steeply rising health insurance prices in 2011, as shown in today’s release, will surely lead to lower coverage rates, when the Census data on health insurance coverage comes out next year.