$961.7 billion. That's how much the federal government says Americans spent on private health insurance in 2013. The figures aren't in yet on the total health insurance expenditure for 2014, but you can expect the number to come close to the $1 trillion mark.
Preliminary information is available, however, about how much Americans spent on average for health insurance in 2014. As you might expect, the dollar amount is higher than the prior year. Here's what the average American is shelling out for health insurance.
Which kind of average?
Let's first face the challenge of even defining "average" when it comes to health insurance. The reality is that how much you pay depends on multiple factors. Rather than lump all Americans into one average, it's better to look at the average amounts paid for employer-sponsored versus individual health insurance and, within those categories, single versus family coverage.
The 2014 Annual Survey of Employer Health Benefits (link opens a PDF) conducted by The Kaiser Family Foundation and Health Research & Educational Trust found that Americans paid an average of $1,081 annually for single coverage health insurance compared to $4,823 for family coverage. On a monthly basis, this amounts to roughly $90 for single coverage and $402 for family coverage.
At first glance, health coverage not obtained through employers appears much more costly. According to eHealth (NASDAQ:EHTH), individuals currently pay $3,444 annually for single coverage and $8,724 for family coverage -- or $287 and $727 per month, respectively. The online health insurance provider tracks premiums for all Affordable Care Act plans submitted through its site.
However, the employer-sponsored premiums don't reflect how much employers pay. When the employer portion of health insurance is included, the numbers tell a different story.
Also, eHealth's figures don't reflect the federal subsidies that are available for many Americans who purchase individual health insurance. In March 2014, Kaiser Family Foundation estimated that Americans received an average of $2,890 per person in federal subsidies.
Who pays the most -- and least?
Some Americans pay much more than those averages. For example, workers enrolled in HMO plans saw premiums around 9% higher than the the average employer-sponsored health insurance rates. Health insurance in the Northeastern U.S. cost nearly 6% more than the national average.
On the other hand, Americans participating in high-deductible health plans with savings options paid $905 annually for single coverage and $4,385 for family coverage. The single coverage figure is a whopping 16% lower than the average for all types of employer-sponsored health plans.
If you live in the South, you likely pay less than other Americans. The average health insurance premium for southern states is 4%-5% lower than the national average.
Employer size also makes a difference. Employees of organizations with less than 200 workers paid an average of $902 annually for single coverage compared to $1,160 for those who worked for larger organizations. The tables turned for family coverage, though, with employees of smaller organizations paying an average of $5,508 annually compared to $4,523 for employees of larger organizations.
For those who obtain coverage through their employers, the bad news is that organizations will probably keep shifting more costs to workers. For many Americans benefiting from federal subsidies for individual health insurance, 2015 could be a pivotal year. The U.S. Supreme Court is scheduled to hear a case that could lead to the unraveling of Obamacare in 36 states that don't operate their own health insurance marketplaces.
There are a couple of things you can count on. First, health insurance premiums will continue to rise. Second, how much you actually pay for health insurance will continue to depend on lots of variables, especially the type of coverage and how much you're willing to pay out of pocket. Ultimately, there's no such thing as an average American when it comes to health insurance.