Up, Up And Away: Health-Insurance Costs Soar

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The doom and gloom surrounding growing U.S. health-care costs continued last week, when a much watched survey of company health-insurance plans revealed a double-digit increase in family premiums for the fourth year in a row. Despite a slight pullback in the rate of growth, premiums over the past year jumped 11.2%, outpacing inflation and growth in wages by about five times. According to the survey, conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation and Health Research and Educational Trust, that hike was equally borne by companies and employees, whose share of the costs rose an average 9.8% for singles (to $558) and 10.3% for families (to $2,661). And the future looks no more promising: 52% of large firms said they were "very likely" to pass along more increases in health costs to employees this year. Meanwhile, for workers at smaller firms, the danger may be loss of coverage altogether. Five million fewer jobs provide health insurance now than did three years ago, a trend partly attributable to small firms getting priced out of offering this increasingly expensive benefit.