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Sep. 10--Health insurance premiums increased 13.9 percent this year, raising the average cost of insuring a family of four to $9,068, according to an annual survey of employee benefits done by the Kaiser Family Foundation and the Health Research and Education Trust.
The jump, the largest since 1990, was the third straight year of double-digit increases. And a portion of those higher costs are being passed on to employees.
Over the past three years, an employee's premium for family coverage has increased nearly 50 percent, rising to an average of $2,412 from $1,619 a year.
Employers continue to pay most of the cost of health insurance. The survey found that employers pay an average of 73 percent of the cost while employees pay 27 percent.
The percentage of the cost paid by employees, though, could increase in coming years, according to the survey. Many employers said they will increase employee contributions and cost-sharing, such as higher deductibles, next year.
The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation is a nonprofit organization that does research and analysis on health care issues. Health Research and Education Trust is a private, not- for-profit organization involved in research, education and demonstration programs on health management and policy issues.
The survey results probably won't surprise employers.
"All you have to do is ask is my customers," said Fred Schwabe of Fred Schwabe & Associates, a Brandon health insurance broker.
The survey, done between January and May of this year, included 2,808 companies ranging in size from three to more than 300,000 employees.
Schwabe, who specializes in group health plans for small- to midsized businesses, said the increase in health insurance premiums for small companies was even higher than the 13.9 percent average found in the survey.
He estimates that premiums rose 20 percent to 25 percent this year, with some clients seeing even larger increases.
He added that this week, two clients, both small employers, stopped providing health insurance because of the cost.
The Kaiser survey, though, found that few employers plan to reduce eligibility or stop providing health insurance as a benefit. Only 16 percent, for instance, plan to drop coverage. But most plan to ask employees to pay a larger share of the cost.
Many large employers also are considering offering plans with high deductibles.
This was the second consecutive year in which the increase in the cost of health insurance exceeded the rate of inflation by 10 percentage points. The cost of insuring one employee -- as opposed to family coverage -- now averages $3,383 a year, with the employee paying $508 of the premium.
Employers were most likely to attribute the increase to higher spending on prescription drugs and for hospital services.
The Tampa Bay area hasn't escaped the national trend.
"There isn't any part of the country that's going unscathed right now," said Matthew Snook, a health care consultant at the Tampa office of Mercer Human Resources Consulting.
The survey also found that employers don't hold much hope for the rise in health care costs to slow.
Family coverage costs an employer $6,656 on average while single coverage costs an average of $2,875, according to the Kaiser survey.
Employers cannot continue to absorb the cost, Snook said. Yet most employees are unaware of the cost. "They have no idea," Snook said.
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