10 Questions in the U.S. Health Care Cost Debate

How Much Is a Typical Insurance Premium?
Health care premiums in the U.S. vary widely in cost, depending on the plan you choose. But hardly any of them are cheap. Stock4B/Getty Images

In 2015, more than half of Americans under 65 were covered by employer-sponsored health insurance. The price tag came to an average of $6,251 annually for single coverage and $17,545 per year for family coverage. But employers paid most of those costs; workers contributed an average of 18 percent (single) and 29 percent (family) of the premium [source: The Henry L. Kaiser Family Foundation].

In addition, more than 80 percent of covered workers first had to meet an annual deductible for single coverage before their plan would begin paying. The vast majority of workers also paid either a copayment for office visits or an average 18 or 19 percent coinsurance fee (primary versus specialty care). Additional fees were also assessed for surgeries, hospital care and drugs [source: The Henry L. Kaiser Family Foundation].

If those numbers seem high, be glad you're not unemployed. Since 1985, if you lose your job — and thus your employer-sponsored health insurance — you're eligible to continue group coverage for up to 18 or 36 months under COBRA (Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act). That's good news, yet COBRA is tremendously expensive, as you pay the entire cost of your insurance — the share you used to pay, plus the share your employer once covered. A single person who might have paid $83 a month for an employer-sponsored plan could now be paying $490, plus a 2 percent admin fee [source: Norris].

Under Obamacare, people paid an average of $389 per month in 2015 for medical insurance through the health care exchange, but were eligible for subsidies if they earned under 400 percent of the federal poverty level [source: Norris]. However, if they were in a state that did not expand Medicaid (and 19 states didn't), no subsidies were available. People in those states either would pay the full premium or go without insurance — and incur no penalty for not having it [source: Obamacare Facts].