U.S. employer healthcare costs up 7.3 percent in 2009

Average healthcare costs for U.S. employers rose by 7.3 percent in 2009, surpassing inflation and the growth rate in overall healthcare spending, Thomson Reuters reported on Monday.

Overall U.S. healthcare spending, including Medicare, Medicaid, and other payers, grew by 4.8 percent in 2009, the report found.

"In a year when inflation was non-existent, employer healthcare costs continued to surge," Chris Justice of the Healthcare & Science business of Thomson Reuters, who wrote the report, said in a statement.

"This analysis puts the real-world healthcare challenges facing employers into perspective. These cost increases have come at a particularly difficult time for U.S. companies."

Justice and his colleagues analyzed National Health Expenditures data from the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services Office of the Actuary for the report, available here

They said the year-over-year increase compared to a rise of 6.1 percent in 2008.

The team at Thomson Reuters, parent company of Reuters, analyzed insurance claims data for 144 small, medium-sized, and large companies that provided health benefits to 9.5 million people.

Smaller employers with 5,000 or fewer workers saw costs rise the most, with healthcare spending up 9.8 percent.

Medium-sized employers of 5,000 to 50,000 people had a 10-percent rise in costs compared to 6.5 percent in 2008. For large companies with more than 50,000 employees, costs rose 5 percent in 2009, down from 5.8 percent in 2008.

[Source: Reuters, Washington, 22Mar10]

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