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Employee Benefits Survey
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Medical care premiums in the United States, March 2019

The National Compensation Survey (NCS) program produces comprehensive data on the incidence (the percentage of workers with access to and participation in employer provided benefit plans) and provisions of employee benefit plans. Health care is typically one of the most expensive benefits for employers to provide, constituting 8.3 percent of total compensation for civilian workers in March 20191. The average cost for health care per state and local government employee hour worked was $5.90 and in private industry it was $2.60.

The NCS program publishes several components of health care benefits, including medical care premiums.

  • A premium is an agreed upon fee paid for coverage of medical care benefits for a defined period of time (usually 1 year).
  • Premiums may be paid by employers, unions, employees, or shared by both the insured individual and the plan sponsor(s) depending on the plan.
  • Data are available for the share (in percent) of the premium paid by the employee and employer and the percent of workers with a contribution requirement.

Estimates for medical plan premiums are not based on actual decisions regarding medical coverage made by employees; instead they are based on the assumption that all employees in the occupation can opt for available coverage.

Based on March 2019 civilian worker data from the NCS:

  • The 15 percent of workers participating in a plan without an employee contribution requirement had an average employer paid premium of $595.61 per month.
  • The 85 percent of workers participating in a plan with an employee contribution requirement had a premium cost to employees of $135.12 and $450.54 to the employer.
  • Seventy–one percent of workers have a flat dollar contribution requirement for single coverage premiums and a median contribution amount of $119.23.2

In order to show the distribution of flat dollar medical care premiums, data are broken out by the following percentiles: 10th, 25th, 50th, 75th, and 90th. The benefits publication presents the monthly premium amount, but for this fact sheet the amounts were multiplied by 12 to show annual premium amounts. The median (50th percentile) is where half of workers have premiums less than and half of workers have premiums more than the stated premium amount. The median annual premium for civilian workers is $1,430.76 for single coverage medical care benefits and $5,595.84 for family coverage. (See chart 1 and table 15.)

 

Chart 1. Annual employee contributions for single and family coverage, civilian workers, March 2019

 

State and local government workers in the lowest 25 percent wage category had a median annual premium amount of $1,040.04 for single coverage. At the 90th percentile, the employee contribution was $3,288.96 for state and local government workers for single coverage at the highest 25 percent wage category. (See chart 2 and table 15.)

Private industry workers in the lowest 25 percent wage category had a median annual premium amount of $1,508.16 for single coverage. (See chart 2 and table 15.)

 

Chart 2. Annual employee contribution for single coverage by wage category, March 2019

 

The share of premiums paid by state and local government workers (regardless of contribution requirement) was 13 percent for those in the lowest 25 percent wage category and 15 percent for those in the highest 25 percent wage category for single coverage. In private industry, workers in the lowest 25 percent wage category paid a slightly larger share of premiums (24 percent) than those in the highest 25 percent wage category for single coverage (19 percent). (See table 10. and chart 3.)

 

Chart 3. Employer and employee contribution for single coverage by wage category, March 2019

 

Additional Resources

Health benefits are available for civilian, private industry, and state and local government workers within the Employee Benefits in the United States, March 2019 publication. Additionally, health plan provisions for private industry and state and local government workers are also periodically published, see Health and Retirement Plan provisions section within the benefits tab of the publications page.

NCS Glossary of Employee Benefit Terms — provides definitions of major plans, key provisions, and related terms.

Handbook of Methods: National Compensation Measures — provides information on the survey design, calculations, weighting, and imputation methods used to produce NCS estimates of compensation. Information on calculating the reliability of estimates (standard errors) is included in the calculation section.

Historical data

For historical information on the cost, coverage, and provisions of employer–sponsored benefit plans see the NCS publications list. BLS advises against making comparisons with previously published benefits estimates due to changes in weighting and sample rotation. The estimates presented were produced using March 2019 employment weights from the Current Employment Statistics program. The NCS uses a sample rotation, where one–third of the private sample is rotated each year except in years where the state and local government sample is rotated, which occurs approximately every ten years.

Comparing private and public sector estimates

Private industry estimates should not be directly compared with state and local government estimates as differences between these sectors stem from factors such as variation in work activities and occupational structures. Manufacturing and sales, for example, comprise a large portion of private industry work activities but are rare in state and local government. Professional and administrative support occupations (including teachers) account for two–thirds of the state and local government workforce, compared with one–half of private industry. Additionally, primary, secondary, and special education teachers typically have a work schedule of 37 or 38 weeks per year. Because of this work schedule, they are generally not offered leave benefits for vacations or holidays. In many cases, the time off during winter and spring breaks during the school year are not considered vacation days for the purposes of the NCS.

END NOTES

1 Data are from the March 2019 Employer Costs for Employee Compensation (ECEC) Table 1.

2 Flat dollar amount contribution requirements are a fixed dollar amount. Variable dollar amount requirements may vary by dollar amount depending on other factors– for example, the amount may vary by employee’s earnings or length of service.

 

Last Modified Date: September 20, 2019