Survey details slower health insurance cost hikes

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INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — A new survey says health insurance costs rise will less next year for many employers than they have in more than a decade, partly because consumers are dialing back their health care use.

Benefits consultant Mercer says the cost of employer-sponsored health benefits will rise 5.4 percent on average in 2012. That compares with an increase of more than 6 percent in 2011. It’s the smallest hike since 1997.

Employer-sponsored health insurance is the main form of coverage in the United States.

Many companies said in the survey that, if they made no changes, their health insurance costs would rise 7 percent next year, but the companies are working to contain workers’ expenses by taking measures like raising deductibles or co-payments and switching insurers.