Employer health benefit costs hit lowest wage workers hardest

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The latest Kaiser Employer Health Benefits Survey found that nationally last year premiums for employer-sponsored health benefits rose by 3% for single coverage and 5% for family coverage. In comparison, wages rose 2.6% and inflation was 2.5%. As in previous surveys, premiums were highest in the Northeast. But in a really unfair twist (which also isn’t new), low wage workers (firms with at least 35% of workers earn $25,000/year or less) pay a larger share of their premiums (24% vs. 17% for single coverage, 42% vs. 29% for family plans). Workers in these firms are less likely to be eligible for health benefits (61% vs. 81%) and less likely to be covered by employer benefits (33% vs. 64%). In good news, 4% of all firms and 11% of large firms assist low-wage workers to afford health coverage by subsidizing their premiums.