Study: 2004 healthcare costs lowest jump in five years

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While 2004 healthcare costs nationally rose at their lowest rate in five years, they still outpaced inflation, according to a recent survey from Mercer Human Resource Consulting.

The survey noted that the average healthcare cost per employee rose 7.5% for all employers in 2004. That's a decrease from the 10.1% increase seen a year earlier and the lowest increase since 1999.

The total health benefit cost for employees rose 9.4% in 2004 to an average of $5,960, according to results based on a survey of 60 employers with 500 or more workers in North Carolina. Employers expect a 6.7% increase in 2005, according to their reports to Mercer.

Nationally, large employers reported a 9% jump in total health-benefit costs in 2004 -- to an average of $6,918. These employers said they expect a 7.8% increase in 2005.