The Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) on Sept. 19 released its annual survey of employer health benefits, finding a modest year-over-year premium rate hike for employer-sponsored coverage.

Annual premiums for employer-sponsored family health insurance coverage reached $18,764 this year, up 3% from 2016, with workers on average paying $5,714 towards the cost, according to the benchmark Kaiser Family Foundation/Health Research & Education Trust 2017 Employer Health Benefits Survey. Employees at smaller firms (below 200 workers) contribute more: $6,814 on average.

That represents a continuation of a six-year run of relatively modest premium increases, KFF reported.

“This year’s premium increase is similar to the rise in workers’ wages (2.3%) and inflation (2%) over the same period and continues a remarkable slowdown,” the Menlo Park, Calif.-based foundation said. “Since 2012, average family premiums have increased 19%, more slowly than the previous five years (30% increase from 2007 to 2012) and the five years before that (51% from 2002 to 2007).”

At the same time, workers’ average contribution to family premiums has increased more rapidly than the employer’s share since 2012 (32% v. 14%), the foundation noted.

“Our survey finds employer premiums rose just 3 percent this year – far less than the 20 percent average in the Affordable Care Act marketplaces,” KFF President and CEO Drew Altman said in a statement. “While the marketplaces seem to get all the attention, the much larger employer market where more than 150 million people get their coverage is very stable.”

The KFF survey, which was conducted between January and June of 2017 and included 2,100-plus interviews with non-federal public and private companies, also found a drop this year in the number of small businesses offering health coverage to their workers.

The survey aims to detail trends in employer-sponsored health coverage, including premiums, employee contributions, cost-sharing provisions and employer practices. It explores the use of incentives for employer wellness programs, plan cost sharing and more.

Among numerous findings, the foundation’s survey also highlighted:

  • Deductibles. Aggregate family deductibles are higher at small companies than at large ones across all types of plans. For example, workers covered in PPOs, the most common plan type, face an average such deductible of $3,660 at small firms, nearly twice the $1,899 level at large ones.
    The average annual deductible for single coverage across all workers is $1,505 in 2017, but it is 66% higher for workers at small businesses ($2,120) than large companies ($1,276).
  • Supplemental benefits. Most large firms that offer health benefits also offer dental benefits (97%) and vision benefits (82%) separate from any coverage in the health plans they offer. Fewer companies offer long-term care insurance (25%).
  • Financial incentives for wellness. Most large employers offer wellness and/or health screening programs such as health risk assessments or biometric screenings. Close to half (45%) of large companies provide incentives for workers to participate in such programs and 42% of this group offer maximum financial incentives of at least $500.

View the report at