After several years of more modest increases, 2011 brought companies and consumers sharply higher health insurance premium increases—and questions about the factors behind the increased rates.

A September 2011 Kaiser Family Foundation study showed the average annual premium for family coverage through an employer grew to $15,073 in 2011. That’s 9 percent higher than the same premium in 2010, and a dramatic contrast to the preceding several years, when premium increases of 3 percent to 5 percent were common. The overall trajectory, however, has always been up. The cost of family coverage has nearly doubled since 2001, though wages have increased by just 34 percent.

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