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Health insurance premiums expected to rise 7 percent, pass $10,000 mark in 2012 Posted: October 12th, 2011

By Maryalene LaPonsie

Employers should brace for another year of rising medical insurance premiums in 2012. Consulting firm Aon Hewitt projects a 7 percent jump in the cost of health insurance coverage next year. In addition, for the first time, the average cost of health insurance plans will exceed $10,000 per employee.

Premium increases are expected to be greatest for health maintenance organizations (HMOs). These health insurance plans will see average rate hikes of 7.8 percent compared to 6.6 percent for preferred provider organizations (PPOs) and 6.6 percent for point-of-service (POS) plans. Aon Hewitt also anticipates that employers will continue to shift a portion of the premium cost to their employees. In 2012, the firm estimates employees will pay 22 percent of their plan premiums.

"In what continues to be an uncertain economic environment, organizations cannot afford health care costs growing at 7 percent each year," says John Zern, executive vice president and the Americas practice director for health and benefits with Aon Hewitt. He adds that "employers will continue to shift cost to employees in order to keep company costs to a manageable level."

The Aon Hewitt analysis also considered 2011 health insurance rates to determine the six metropolitan areas with the greatest increase in premiums:

  1. Orlando, Fla.: 11.1 percent
  2. New York: 9.5 percent
  3. Orange County, Calif.: 9.1 percent
  4. Houston: 8.9 percent
  5. Boston: 8.6 percent
  6. Los Angeles: 8.5 percent

At the other end of the spectrum, Detroit was the metropolitan area with the smallest increase in health insurance premiums at 5.8 percent.

Doctors say many patients receive too much care

In related news, a national survey of U.S. primary care physicians reveals many doctors believe their patients receive too much care. Conducted by the VA Outcomes Group and the Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice, the survey drew on responses from doctors listed in the American Medical Association Physician Masterfile.

While 52 percent of respondents said their patients received the right amount of care, 42 percent said patients in their own practice received too much care. Only 6 percent of physicians said their patients received too little care.

Among the reasons cited for excess care:

  • Malpractice concerns: 76 percent
  • Clinical performance measures: 52 percent
  • Inadequate time to spend with patients: 40 percent

In addition, 83 percent of physicians say they could be sued for failing to order a test while only 21 percent say they could be sued for ordering a test that did not have an indicated need.