Surveys: companies, workers coughing up more for healthcare

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Both employers and employees are paying more for healthcare, according to several recent surveys chronicling the rise and fall of employer-sponsored healthcare rates and premiums over the last year.

The average insurance premium rose by 5% this year—a similar figure to last year's increase, according to findings from a survey of nearly 2,000 employers from the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonprofit health policy research group. Employee-benefits consulting firm Towers Perrin, whose own report came out Wednesday, expects next year's rate increase to hit 6%. That echoes Hewitt Associates' 6.4% projection made earlier this year. Workers today shell out an average of $3,354 per annum in healthcare premiums, compared with $1,543 nine years ago, according to Kaiser.

Both presidential candidates have been touting their healthcare plans in the run-up to the November elections. Democrat Barack Obama favors a Small Business Health Tax Credit to provide small businesses with a refundable tax credit of up to 50 percent on premiums paid by small businesses on behalf of their employees. Republican John McCain would seek to give refundable tax credits of $5,000 for families and $2,500 for individuals to help them pay down healthcare costs.