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Here’s Why Your Insurance Deductible Has Tripled

It's not your imagination, and you're not bad at math. You really are opening your wallet more and more at the doctor's office every year.

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Dr. Olveen Carrasquillo sits with Juan Gonzalez during a checkup at the University of Miami’s Miller School of Medicine. Joe Raedle / Getty Images

The average deductible for an employer-provided insurance plan is now $1,500, up from $500 in 2006, according to an analysis by the Kaiser Family Foundation, a non-profit that publishes data on the health care industry, released Wednesday.

That means the chunk you pay for actual medical services before your company insurance benefit kicks in has continued to swell as employers shift more of the cost burden to workers. In 1999, workers paid 14 percent of their plan costs. Today it's 18 percent.

Insurers cite rising health care costs and consumers and businesses choosing "pay later" plans as the main drivers for the sharp rise in deductibles.

"Many have chosen a high-deductible plan with a Health Savings Account so they can save for out-of-pocket costs and get a tax benefit," David Merritt, Executive Vice President of America’s Health Insurance Plans, an industry trade group, wrote NBC News in an email.

The report did have some good news. Premiums, the amount paid to the insurance company to pay for your policy, split between you and your employer, have gone up relatively slowly. Last year premiums went up by about the same amount your paycheck may have gone up, an average of 3 percent.

So if you're healthy, your costs are about the same, on average. If you need care you may feel a sharper prick in the pocketbook. And your costs are going up much sharper than your employer's.

That can force families with already tight budgets to make tough decisions to try to rein in costs, or strain their household spreadsheet even more.

"Higher costs definitely have impact," said Matthew Rae, a senior policy analyst at the Kaiser foundation and one of the report's authors. "Workers in some cases are not able to access care."