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Your boss is feeling the pain of rising healthcare costs too

Mercer

Your healthcare costs are going up, but so are your employers'.

Employers shelled out $9,562 per employee, on average, for healthcare benefits this year, a 6.9 percent increase over last year, according to a survey of employers released Wednesday.

That's up from a 5.5 percent increase in 2009 and the largest percentage increase since 2004, according to consulting firm Mercer, which compiled the annual survey.

The Mercer survey, which this year included 2,836 employers with 10 or more employees, reported that costs rose most for companies with 500 employees or more. For those employers, costs went up by 8.5 percent, versus 4.4 percent for smaller employers.

Big companies are more likely to be self-insured, meaning they pay out of pocket for their employees’ health expenses.

Beth Umland, Mercer’s director of health and benefits research, said the bigger increase for those large employers is partly because healthcare treatment costs rose during the year. She said employees also may have sought out more healthcare treatments in 2010 after putting them off in 2008 and 2009 because of the recession.

Of course, employees also are feeling the pinch of rising healthcare costs. Mercer reports that the average deductible for PPO plans rose by more than $100 in 2010, to a whopping $1,200. PPO plans now make up around 70 percent of all employee benefit plans, according to Mercer.

Employers are finding other ways to cut their healthcare costs. Mercer said more employers are adding high-deductible options such as consumer-directed healthcare plans, and fewer companies are offering medical plans for early retirees.

A separate study, released by the Kaiser Family Foundation in September, found that workers are paying almost $4,000 on average for healthcare coverage this year, up 14 percent from a year earlier.