CHARLOTTE, N.C. (Cassie Cope | The Charlotte Observer) - North Carolina workers pay thousands of dollars a year for health insurance to cover themselves and their families – and those costs are rising.
Just how much are N.C. workers shelling out for family plan premiums?
Employees at N.C. businesses paid out of their paychecks an average of $9,573 a year to insure themselves and their family, according a survey by the state's Employers Association.
And that's just the employee's share. The businesses and organizations they work at are paying thousands more for traditional health plan premiums.
That money has to come from somewhere – offsetting pay raises or reducing the amount of money workers can save and spend.
"They can't spend it on housing, they can't spend it on food, they can't spend it on education," said Christina Dalton, a health care economist at Wake Forest University.
The focus on expensive health care cost came into the spotlight again during the latest Republican efforts to "repeal and replace" the Affordable Care Act. But that attempt appears to have failed this week, leaving the federal health care law in tact for now.
And N.C. workers continue to pay more: The N.C. employers reported that the total price tag for traditional plans health insurance premiums rose 6.1 percent compared to the year before, according to the Employers Association survey.
The total cost to insure an N.C. employee and their family averaged $19,565 a year for a traditional health plan's premiums.
Of that, workplaces picked up $9,992.
As employers pay more for health care they, like their employees, will have to prioritize where the money will come from.
"Either they'll hire fewer people or they might decide to stop offering health insurance as a benefit," Dalton said
Nationwide, prices are increasing too.
The total cost of family health insurance premiums cost an average $18,764 a year, according to a national study by the Kaiser Family Foundation.
Of that, employees paid $5,714 while the places they work picked up $13,049 toward family plans' cost.
Those costs rose by 3 percent since last year and 55 percent over the past decade, according the Kaiser study.
Workers and their employers have to come up with the money to pay more for premiums.
The increases in cost could offset any raises or force employees to save less for retirement or spend less on other items.
"They have to reevaluate their priorities," said Cathy Graham, director of benefits services at the Employers Association.
Health insurance costs are rising because people are going to the doctor more often due to a better economy, said Matthew Rae, a senior health policy analyst at Kaiser who worked on the survey.
In addition, the Affordable Care Act mandated minimum coverages – for example, free preventative care, Dalton said. As a result, insurance will get more expensive because it is required to cover more, she said.
Meanwhile, workers who only cover themselves on their insurance plan pay far less than those who cover others in their family.
Employees who only insured themselves – and not a spouse or children – paid an average $1,302 a year for traditional health plan premiums, according to the Employers Association, which surveyed 654 N.C. employers, most employing up to 500 workers.
Nationwide, workers who only insured themselves paid an average of $1,213 a year for premiums.
It is much more expensive to cover a spouse and children, because dependents have more claims than the employee, Graham said.