Even if premiums stay as they are, employers may still be unable to afford them amid plummeting revenues. Before Covid-19, premiums for employer-sponsored plans had been consistently outpacing inflation. In 2019, the Kaiser Family Foundation reported that the average annual premium for employer-sponsored health insurance was a whopping $20,576 for a family of four (and $7,188 for an individual) — a 54% increase over the previous 10 years. That dwarfs the average inflation-adjusted increase of 4% in wages in the same 10-year period from 2009 to 2019.
Given these rising costs, employers should look beyond 2021. They should not seek a short-term fix by raising copayments, deductibles, and other out-of-pocket costs for next year. While this strategy may initially reduce spending on health care, studies show that it will disincentivize employees to seek preventative treatment. In fact, families with higher deductibles are less likely to take their children to see the doctor, even when the visit is free. Over time, this leads to worse health outcomes for employees and their families, which also means much higher costs.