Survey shows health insurance cost climb in 2012

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The good news is that the cost of employer-sponsored health insurance is growing at a stable rate. The bad news is that the rate still exceeds inflation and worker wage increases, according to a survey from benefits consultant Towers Watson and the National Business Group on Health.

The annual cost of health coverage will rise nearly 6 percent to an average of $11,664 per employee in 2012, said the survey, which was released Thursday. The employee portion of that bill ? or what comes out of worker paychecks ? will climb, on average, 9.3 percent to $2,764.

The actual change an employee experiences will vary depending on the type of plan and how many people are covered under it.

Companies are not asking all employees to pay a bigger portion of the coverage bill, said Sandy Ageloff, a Towers Watson health and group benefits leader. They generally hold cost-sharing on employee-only plans flat while raising it for coverage that includes dependents.

Employees, on average, paid 23 percent of the total premium cost last year and are paying 23.7 percent this year.

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

The cost of that coverage has increased between 5 percent and 7 percent annually since 2007, so the latest rise falls nearly in the middle of that range. But this trend has outpaced wage growth for more than a decade, and insurance costs are growing at about twice the rate of inflation, Towers Watson said.

About 512 companies ranging in size from 1,000 employees to 25,000 or more responded to the survey.