These plans meet all the requirements of the health care law, including covering pre-existing conditions, providing free preventive care, and not capping annual benefits. If you have one of these plans, you won’t have to pay the fee that people without coverage must pay through the 2018 plan year. (Note: Starting with the 2019 plan year (for which you’ll file taxes in April 2020), the fee no longer applies.)
According to a Kaiser Family Foundation analysis, in 2018, the average American worker with employer-sponsored health insurance contributed $1,186 for a single employee health plan and $5,547 for a family health plan. Since this is an average, some employees may be paying much more (employers paid the bulk of the total premiums, which averaged $6,896 for single employees and $19,616 for family coverage).
Baylor Hospital, in Dallas, Texas, introduced the first pre-paid hospital insurance in 1929, offering to provide medical services to a group of Texas teachers for a premium of 50 cents a month. The plan worked on the principle of paying for the costs of care for a small group of sick individuals by spreading them out over a much larger pool. The concept caught on, and by the late 1930s, nearly 3 million Americans were enrolled in “Blue Cross” hospital plans.
But it's also worth noting that if they keep the employer-sponsored plan for the whole family, the premiums will almost certainly be payroll deducted on the pre-tax basis. On the other hand, if they opt to buy an individual market plan, the premiums would only be tax deductible to the extent that they (along with other medical expenses) exceed 10 percent of the family's household income, and assuming that the family opts to itemize their tax deductions (increasingly rare now that the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act has greatly increased the standard deduction).
How do the benefits differ? What would you owe in out-of-pocket costs if you were to be injured or get seriously ill? How does that compare with your out-of-pocket exposure on the employer-sponsored plan? Are your doctors in the network of the individual plan? You'll want to carefully consider all of these things before switching, and keep in mind that you won't be able to rejoin your employer's plan until the next open enrollment window offered by your employer.
Nearly a century later, private health insurance continues to dominate the U.S. health care landscape. Despite attempts by U.S. Presidents, including Harry S. Truman, John F. Kennedy and Bill Clinton, government-sponsored universal health care never materialized. And, although President Lyndon Johnson signed Medicare into law in the 1960s to provide a safety net for citizens over age 65, the majority of Americans under 65 continue to get their health care from private insurers.
For those who don’t have access to employer-sponsored plans, coverage on the individual market is an option. This market has changed dramatically as a result of the Affordable Care Act. Prior to 2014, in most states, individual coverage was medically underwritten, which meant that coverage was only available for purchase if the applicant was at least fairly healthy, as the insurance companies would closely scrutinize your complete medical history when you applied. Coverage in the individual market was typically not as robust as employer-sponsored health insurance; maternity care, prescription drugs, and mental health care were often missing from the coverage. And people who purchased individual market coverage prior to 2014 had to pay the whole premium themselves.
If the coverage available through your employer feels unaffordable, you can shop around online to see what's available. You may be able to find an individual market policy that will provide you with the coverage you need but is less expensive than the premium you pay at work. This is unlikely to be the case if your plan only covers yourself, since your employer is likely subsidizing a good chunk of the total premiums for the plan offered through your job. But some employer-sponsored plans require the employee to cover the full cost of adding family members, so it's possible that your family members could get a better deal with a separate policy.
There are other online brokerages, both large and small, that can help you sort out the individual market health insurance options available in your area. Most of them can show you plans that are available in the exchange as well as options that are only available outside the exchange (no subsidies are available outside the exchange, but as noted above, you're probably not eligible for subsidies anyway, if you have access to an employer-sponsored plan).
Individual and family medical and dental insurance plans are insured by Cigna Health and Life Insurance Company (CHLIC), Cigna HealthCare of Arizona, Inc., Cigna HealthCare of Illinois, Inc., and Cigna HealthCare of North Carolina, Inc. Group health insurance and health benefit plans are insured or administered by CHLIC, Connecticut General Life Insurance Company (CGLIC), or their affiliates (see a listing of the legal entities that insure or administer group HMO, dental HMO, and other products or services in your state). Group Universal Life (GUL) insurance plans are insured by CGLIC. Life (other than GUL), accident, critical illness, hospital indemnity, and disability plans are insured or administered by Life Insurance Company of North America, except in NY, where insured plans are offered by Cigna Life Insurance Company of New York (New York, NY). All insurance policies and group benefit plans contain exclusions and limitations. For availability, costs and complete details of coverage, contact a licensed agent or Cigna sales representative. This website is not intended for residents of New Mexico.