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Florida workers rank near the top in how much they pay for health insurance

Employees in only two other states paid more relative to their household income.
Employees are paying more for health insurance. [MICHAEL MCCLOSKEY  |  iStockPhoto]
Employees are paying more for health insurance. [MICHAEL MCCLOSKEY | iStockPhoto]
Published Dec. 3, 2019
Updated Dec. 3, 2019

Workers are spending a larger chunk of their paychecks on health insurance, and Floridians are some of the worst off.

For years, the cost of insurance has outstripped incomes and the trend continues, according to a recent study from the Commonwealth Fund, a nonprofit that advocates for improvements to the health care system. In 2008, the average employee in the country paid 7.9 percent of the median household for health insurance. Last year, the number reached 11.5 percent.

In Florida, the expenses soaked up an average of 14.5 percent of the state’s median household income, up from 10.1 percent a decade ago. That was higher than all other states, except for Louisiana and Mississippi. Workers in Washington (7.7 percent) and Massachusetts (8.4 percent) paid the least.

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Many states ranked poorly for premiums — the fixed cost taken out of paychecks — or deductibles, the amount employees soak up before health insurance starts to pay. Florida workers spent a bigger slice of their income on both.

The increases are "concerning, because it may put both coverage and health care out of reach for millions of people,” said Sara Collins, the study’s lead author.

The study looked at middle-income workers who received insurance through their employers. The authors noted that low-income workers pay an even larger slice of their incomes for health insurance.

So far, enrollment in employee-sponsored plans remains stable, though researchers worry that more people will choose to go without coverage if costs rise much further, especially lower-income workers struggling to pay for rent and food.

Workers with coverage — but high deductibles — are more likely to skip needed doctor visits or forgo filling prescriptions, not wanting to pay out of pocket before their coverage finally kicks in. Rolling the dice is risky. Some get away with it. Others end up with much more advanced illnesses that could have been caught during routine checkups.

The study pointed out that workers with premiums that exceed 9.86 percent of their income are eligible for subsidies. But the help only applies to policies that cover individual employees, which leaves “many middle-income families caught in the so-called family coverage glitch, where they have an expensive family plan but do not qualify."

In Florida, the cost of insuring a single person rose from $4,517 in 2008 to $6,674 last year, the study found. For a family, the numbers surged from under $13,000 to nearly $19,000.

The cost of deductibles doubled for both groups over that period, though Collins noted that the increases appear to be slowing. Premiums in Florida rose over the past 10 years, but not nearly as fast as deductibles. In fact, premiums fell from 2016 to 2018 for both single employees and families.

Another glimmer of good news: The state saw a relatively large increase in median household income from 2016 to 2018. That helped the typical Florida worker spend a smaller amount of income on health care insurance last year than in 2016.

Commonwealth Fund president David Blumenthal concluded that ensuring everyone can afford insurance requires getting at the heart of the problem — "the exorbitant prices we often pay for health care in the United States.”

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