Congrats, America! Earlier this month you passed an annual milestone: Two days after Tax Day, you made it to… Deductible Relief Day! 

What’s that? It’s the day where the average person with employer-based health insurance has spent enough on health expenses to finally meet their deductible.

Health insurance deductibles have been rising so rapidly (year after year after year) that the Kaiser Family Foundation decided to track the trend to show how severely Americans are getting ripped off (and sick). And it’s bad.

As you might guess, the Deductible Relief Day is being pushed further each year. In 2005, you had to wait until February 28. By 2009, you wouldn’t be popping champagne until March 18. In 2019, you waited two months more than that.

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As the Kaiser Family Foundation noted, in 2009, the average deductible was $533 for a single person. In 2018, it was $1350. How? The insurance industry strategy of moving all of us into high-deductible plans (one of the many gross abuses I saw first-hand at Cigna) has paid off well for my former employers.

“Average enrollee spending on deductibles more than tripled between 2007 and 2017.”

In 2018, about 85% of covered workers were enrolled in a high-deductible plan, up from just 50% ten years earlier. Another way of looking at this: Average enrollee spending on deductibles more than tripled between 2007 and 2017.

And Kaiser didn’t look at people who buy their coverage on their own through the ACA exchanges. They’re in even *worse* shape. The Commonwealth Fund found that 40% of people in ACA plans are underinsured because of high out-of-pocket charges – and many likely never meet their deductibles.

As a result, millions of Americans are not going to the doctor or picking up prescriptions. Insurers LOVE that. It’s far fewer claims to pay! It’s why, when many other businesses went belly up during COVID-19, insurers made record profits: medical treatment was less accessible!

President Biden, are you paying attention to this? You must.

Millions of people WITH insurance who voted for you, including folks on Obamacare, CAN’T USE IT because of deductibles! Insurers can charge families up to $7,200 before they’ll pay a dime. It keeps going up. Every. Single. Year.

No wonder more and more Americans with insurance are turning to GoFundMe or bankruptcy court. It’s not just the premiums you gotta worry about, Joe. Deductibles are eating us alive. You and Congress need to pay attention before NO Americans can meet their deductibles.


The Potter Report is co-published by To Be Fair, Inc. 501(c)3/Tarbell.org and Business Leaders for Health Care Transformation.

Wendell Potter
Chairman of the Board at To Be Fair, Inc. | + posts

To Be Fair, Inc. and Tarbell.org founder Wendell Potter is an American consumer advocate, New York Times bestselling author, consultant, and former health insurance industry executive. A critic of HMOs and of the tactics used by insurers, Potter is also an advocate for major reforms of the industry, including universal health care.