A new study by Hewitt Associates found average health care costs increased 6 percent in 2008, up from 5.3 percent in 2007.

Major companies can expect the average health cost per employee to increase from $8,331 to $8,863 next year, with employees making up approximately 22 percent of the overall premium. Average out-of-pocket costs for employees are also expected to increase, from $1,707 in 2008 to $1,880 in 2009. The study projects employees’ health care costs in 2009 will total $3,826, up 8.9 percent from $3,513 in 2008.

Traditional indemnity plans saw the greatest increase at 10.1 percent. HMOs increased by 8 percent, and PPOs increased by 4.8 percent. Average costs for POS plans increased by 3.9 percent.

Average costs for all plan types are expected to increase by at least 5 percent in 2009. Hewitt forecast an increase of 8 percent for HMOs and 6.5 percent for traditional indemnity plans. POS plans and PPO plans are both expected to increase by 5.5 percent.

The study found employers are proactive about managing costs, focusing improving employee health and cutting dead-weight. Some ways employers are combating costs include increasing attention on plan dependents; eliminating “cost-inefficient” plans; aggressively managing health plans; continuing emphasis on employee health and productivity; and enhancing benefits for chronic health conditions.