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HR Tip: Employers' shift to consumer driven plans and wellness programs contribute to modest increases in group premiums

In 2013, group health care premiums for family coverage increased just 3.8 percent, rising to an average of $16,351 per employee, according to the 15th annual Kaiser/HRET survey of more than 2,000 small and large U.S. employers.

While the sluggish economy is a major factor in the modest increases, so too are employers efforts to control costs through high deductible, consumer driven plans. Mercer L.L.C. statistics illustrate the growing prevalence of health plans that expose employees to more costs than traditional plans. For example, last year, 15 percent of employees working at large organizations - those with at least 500 employees - were enrolled in high-deductible, consumer-driven health care plans. That is more than double the seven percent of employees who were enrolled in such plans in 2008.

According to Mercer's 2012 National Survey of Employer-Sponsored Health Plans, the average per-active employee costs of health coverage in PPO and HMO plans last year among midsize employers were $10,624 and $10,421, respectively.

By comparison, mid-market employers in 2012 were charged an average $8,263 per-employee for coverage through an HSA-eligible consumer-driven health plan and $9,397 per employee for coverage through a consumer-driven plan linked to a health reimbursement account.

The 15th annual Kaiser/HRET survey of more than 2,000 small and large U.S. employers revealed that in 2013: