Study: Sharp Rise in U.S. Health Insurance Cost

The cost of health insurance for many Americans this year climbed more sharply than in previous years, outstripping any growth in workers’ wages and adding more uncertainty about the pace of rising medical costs.

A new study by the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonprofit research group that tracks employer-sponsored health insurance on a yearly basis, shows that the average annual premium for family coverage through an employer reached $15,073 in 2011, an increase of 9 percent over the previous year.

“The open question is whether that’s a one-time spike or the start of a period of higher increases,” said Drew Altman, the chief executive of the Kaiser foundation.

The steep increase in rates is particularly unwelcome at a time when the economy is still sputtering, and unemployment continues to hover at about 9 percent. Many businesses cite the high cost of coverage as a factor in their decision not to hire, and health insurance has become increasingly unaffordable for more Americans. The cost of family coverage has about doubled since 2001, when premiums averaged $7,061, compared with a 34 percent gain in wages over the same period.

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