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What’s the average cost of health insurance? Consumer Q&A

By on December 22nd, 2011
Filed: Facts, Health Insurance

Some of the people who pose questions in the ‘Insurance’ category on Yahoo Answers are looking for personal advice. Others are looking for data – whether for school or for their own personal research.

Last week on Yahoo Answers we took a question from someone – presumably a student – who was preparing for a debate on the question of whether or not overweight and obese people should have to pay more for health insurance.

Her real question, however, was more simple: What is the average cost of health insurance?

Well, if you read Get Smart – Get Covered regularly you’ll know that these kinds of questions are near and dear to our hearts. When we replied to her on Yahoo Answers we hadn’t yet released our report on average premiums for smokers and the overweight, but the eHealthInsurance reply was still voted ‘Best Answer’:


Check Health Insurance Costs

It depends on whether you’re talking about employer-based health insurance or individually-purchased health insurance. The Kaiser Family Foundation puts out some good data on employer-based coverage. According to them, the average cost of employer-based health insurance for a single person in 2011 was $5,429 per year, of which the employee paid only $921 and the employer paid the rest. Divide that out by twelve if you want a monthly premium amount. You can find that information as well as average costs for employer-based family coverage here.

When it comes to self-purchased health insurance, eHealthInsurance has some data. In our recent 2011 ‘Cost and Benefits’ report we found that the average monthly premium paid for individual coverage was $183 – more for families. You can find that information (as well as our methodology) here.

That said, it’s important to note that these are only averages and that the amount people pay for their coverage can vary widely, as can the levels of coverage they receive under their health insurance plans.

When it comes to individually-purchased coverage, the fact is that people with a higher Body Mass Index (in the overwight or obese categories) tend to pay more for their coverage than people with a BMI in the “normal” range. When applying for coverage on their own, people are generally required to state their height and weight. Those factors (as well as many others) are used to determine a final monthly premium. In fact, in most states, it’s possible to be declined coverage on your own for a high BMI.

On the employer-based side of things, it’s a little different. You can’t be declined employer health insurance due to a high BMI – and you won’t pay more than anyone else for your coverage. Those costs do get factored in, however and risks (and costs) are spread out over the employer group as a whole.

Photo via Flickr user DorkyMum

About Douglas Dalrymple


Doug Dalrymple is a member of the communications team at eHealth, Inc. and has worked in the health insurance and technology industries for fifteen years. He works on communications strategy, content creation and management, project management, and corporate messaging.

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