Premiums take historic dip

Another week, another study about health care costs. And like almost every other economic indicator these days, there's good news and there's bad.

This week's edition is brought to you by the experts over at Aon Hewitt and it claims employers -- and their employees -- enjoyed the smallest health care premium bump in six years. By the numbers, larger companies averaged premium increases of 4.9 percent -- down by quite a bit from last year's 8.5 percent (and the 6.2 percent jump from the year before).

But, of course, there's a catch.

Next year, the Aon survey predicts, premiums will jump back up another 6.3 percent. In more concrete terms, the study showed the health care cost per employee this year averaged around $10,522, with their contribution hovering around $2,000. Employee actual out-of-pocket costs averaged out to around another $2,000 for the year.

"In 2010, employers found themselves in a challenging budgetary position, thus taking more aggressive actions with their benefit plans. An expected decline in employment levels and new costs resulting from health care reform had to be factored into expected costs, which led many employers and insurers to conservatively project their health care premiums for 2011," said Tim Nimmer, fellow to the Society of Actuaries, member of the American Academy of Actuaries and chief health care actuary at Aon Hewitt.

Broken out by plan type, HMOs are expected to take the biggest hit next year, with a 7 percent bump, while PPOs will jump 6.1 percent.

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