By: Kelli Kolsrud, CEBS​

As I reported in an earlier blog, the second most popular member question received by information specialists during my 25-year tenure at the Foundation has been: “How much do employers require employees to pay toward the cost of their health care benefits?” Knowing that, it may not be surprising that the No. 1, most popular question we’ve received over the years is: “How much do health care benefits cost and at what rate are those costs increasing?” Read on to see where we turn for the current answer.​

11-4_The-Most-Popular-Benefits-Question.jpgThere are a variety of sources that address the questions on health care costs in different ways.

1. Government Resources:

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics tracks employm​ent cost trends (including health care benefit costs) quarterly through its Employer Costs for Employee Compensation (ECEC) reports and its Employment Cost Index (ECI). The ECEC provides average costs per hour worked expressed in dollars and average costs as a percentage of total compensation. The ECI provides cost data changes over time. The data for both reports is broken down by occupation, industry, region, union status and private vs. public sector.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services compiles data through its Medical Expenditure Panel Survey. You can use the search function to find average single and family premium data on a national level and on a state/metro area level. The data is sliced and diced by firm size, industry, age of firm, union status and other employer characteristics.

2. A Nonprofit Organization Resource:

The Kaiser Family Foundation and the Health Research & Educational Trust jointly conduct an Employer Health Benefits Survey annually and collect a wealth of health benefit cost data. Health benefit premium costs are broken down in lots of different ways, including plan type, firm size, region, industry, union status, single vs. family and insured vs. self-funded.

3. Sources From Consulting Firms and Service Providers:

Many benefit consultants and service providers also conduct surveys or analyze their client databases to compile data on health benefit costs and cost increases. Although some of the complete data reports may be reserved for clients, it is possible to gather helpful data from summaries or press releases that are available at no charge. Here are some recent examples:

Survey predicts health benefit ​cost increases will edge up in 2015 – Mercer

2015 Segal Health Plan Cost Trend Survey – Segal Consulting

New Study Projects Health Care Costs to Increase More Slowly – Buck Consultants/Xerox

2014 Health Care Changes Ahead Survey Report – Towers Watson

​ Want to explore more sources on health care benefits costs and other popular benefit topics? If you’re a member of the International Foundation, you already have access to our online InfoQuick tool that offers resources on over 100 frequently requested topics including this topic.  

Don’t see your topic included in the InfoQuick list? Never fear, contact the Information Center directly and we’ll research your specific question: or (888) 334-3327, option 5.


Kelli Kolsrud, CEBS

Director, Information Services and Publications at the International Foundation

Favorite Foundation service/product: Personalized research assistance provided by the Foundation’s information specialists

Benefits related topics that interest her most: Health care benefits (they’re especially interesting post-ACA!); work-life benefits

Favorite Foundation conference/event moment: Meeting and spending quality time with Olympic gold medalist Scott Hamilton at the 59th U.S. Annual Conference.  Meeting Eric Greitens, a real-life Navy SEAL, the year before was pretty awesome too!

Personal Insight: Kelli can connect you to the facts on nearly any benefits topic in the US or Canada, but when she gets away from her work, her focus often shifts to England. Favorite free time activities include watching Downton Abbey and immersing herself in Jane Austen.

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