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Healthcare Costs Keep Growing [AUDIO]

Nationwide, according to a survey by Mercer in Princeton, the average cost of health benefits for employees increased in 2012 by 4.1%, the smallest amount in 15 years. In New Jersey alone, though, health coverage climbed 6.6%, and the growth should continue  in 2013.

Doctor and Patient
Jose Luis Pelaez, Getty Images

The National Survey of Employer-Sponsored Health Plans found the average New Jersey employee put out $12,360 for coverage, 17% higher than the national average.

Rich Fuerstenberg, a Mercer consultant, added employers in New Jersey are expecting healthcare costs to hike another 6% to 9% for 2013. That finding can already be confirmed by employees who have wrapped up their open enrollment periods.

“A big way that employers manage costs is by shifting it to employees,” Fuerstenberg said.

Nearly 85% of respondents said they expect to ask their employees to pay more for healthcare, either per paycheck or per medical visit.

In 2014, individuals will have another source of coverage with new insurance exchanges mandated by federal healthcare reforms. The exchanges will serve as an “online marketplace” of providers.

Despite the added option, just 8% of New Jersey employers said they are likely or very likely to terminate their own health plans.

Fuerstenberg added, “The vast majority of employers will stay in the game and will continue to provide coverage to their employees as long as they continue to manage costs.”

The survey also found increasing availability of and enrollment in consumer-driven health plans, which feature accounts funded by employers and employees; any funds unused during a given year can roll over. These plans typically feature higher deductibles.

Mercer’s survey gathered data from 2,809 employers nationwide; New Jersey accounted for 89 of the respondents.

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