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Health care premiums up 9% this year

WASHINGTON -- After modest increases last year, the cost of job-based health insurance for families and individuals jumped sharply this year, even though insurers are paying less in benefits as cash-strapped American workers opt for less medical care.

For the estimated 150 million workers with employer-sponsored coverage, the average cost of family health insurance -- with many employers paying on average 72 percent -- jumped 9 percent to $15,073. The price of individual coverage rose 8 percent to $5,429, the largest increases since 2005.

Each far outpaced a national 2 percent hike in wages and a 3.2 percent rise in inflation, according to an annual survey of nearly 2,100 businesses that the Kaiser Family Foundation and the Health Research & Educational Trust released yesterday.

In last year's survey, premiums for family and individual coverage rose 3 percent and 5 percent, respectively.

Family coverage premiums have climbed 113 percent since 2001, compared with a 34 percent rise in workers' pay and a 27 percent increase in inflation over the period.