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The Boston Globe

Business

Family health insurance premium increases slow

But costs still rise faster than rate of inflation

The growth of health insurance premiums in the United States was significantly slower this year than in much of the past decade but remained higher than inflation and the growth of worker wages, according to a survey of 2,121 employers in early 2012.

The Kaiser Family Foundation and the Health Research & Educational Trust, which conduct the annual survey, found that overall premium costs and the amount paid by employees about doubled in the past 10 years. But premiums for family plans increased by 4 percent this year, compared with double-digit increases a decade ago.

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The survey analyzes premiums by region. In the Northeast, which includes New England states, New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania, the average annual cost across all plan types for families was $17,099, more than in any other region. Elsewhere, the average family plans cost between $14,988 and $16,198.

Workers in the Northeast tended to pay a greater portion of the cost of individual plans themselves, compared with other parts of the country. But for family plans, they paid less of the premium, about 25 percent. In the South, for example, families paid 31 percent of the premium cost, on average.

Throughout the United States, more than one-third of covered employees are in a plan with a deductible of $1,000 or more, up significantly from 12 percent five years ago. Businesses with fewer than 200 employees were nearly twice as likely to offer plans with a high deductible than larger employers.

Workers at lower-wage firms pay $1,000 more on average each year for family coverage than employees of higher-wager firms, and those at lower-wage firms also are more likely to have high deductibles, the survey found.

“Firms with many lower-wage workers ask employees to pay more out of pocket than firms with many higher-wage workers even though the coverage itself tends to be less comprehensive,” study lead author, Gary Claxton, a Kaiser vice president and director of the foundation’s Health Care Marketplace Project, said in a statement.

See the full report and summary on the Kaiser Family Foundation’s website.

Chelsea Conaboy can be reached at cconaboy@boston.com. Follow her on Twitter @cconaboy.

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