An annual report on the cost of health care prepared by Milliman, Inc. found that, for the first time in years, health care costs for the average American family fell in 2020. However, experts say that is unlikely to happen again any time soon, as the COVID-19 pandemic caused a steep decline in health care utilization.

The report, the 2021 Milliman Medical Index, found that the cost of health care for an average American family of four covered by an employer-sponsored PPO health plan was $26,078, down from $27,233 in 2019, a decrease of 4.2%. The drop will not be permanent, warn the authors: Milliman projects costs will increase to $28,256 in 2021.

These figures combine the employer’s contribution to health plan premiums, the employee’s premium payments and the out-of-pocket expenses paid by the employee. While employer and employee costs both dropped from 2019 to 2020, the report projects that both payers will spend more in 2021 than they did in 2019.

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