A new study by ThomsonReuters finds health care costs for employers increased 7.3percent in 2009, a climb from 6.1 percent 2008.

Analysts at Thomson Reuters are quick to note 2009 was a yearfor negative inflation: "In a year when inflation was non-existent,employer healthcare costs continued to surge," said Chris Justice,author of the report and director of practice leadership for theHealthcare & Science business of Thomson Reuters, in a releasedstatement. "This analysis puts the real-world healthcare challengesfacing employers into perspective. These cost increases have comeat a particularly difficult time for U.S. companies."

The nation's overall health care spending, which includesMedicare and Medicaid, grew at 4.8 percent - modest compared to howmuch employers are paying. And small employers especially arefeeling the pinch.

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