Chart showing growth Cost growth was sharper among smaller employers (50-499 employees), at 9.6%, while larger employers reported average cost growth of 5.0%. (Photo: Shutterstock)

The average per-employee cost of employer-sponsored health insurance jumped 6.3% in 2021 — reaching $14,542 — as employees and their families resumed care after avoiding it in 2020 due to the pandemic. That’s according to Mercer’s 2021 National Survey of Employer-Sponsored Health Plans, which included 1,745 public and private employers of varying sizes.

With the highest annual increase since 2010, health benefit cost outpaced growth in inflation and workers’ earnings through September, Mercer officials said, raising the question of whether employers are seeing a temporary correction to the cost trend (following last year’s increase of just 3.4%) or the start of a new period of higher cost growth. As of now, employers are projecting what Mercer refers to as a “fairly typical” average cost increase of 4.4% for 2022.

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