Employer benefits costs climb in 2010

The costs incurred by companies that provide employee benefits increased in 2010, according to the 2010 National Survey of Employer-Sponsored Health Plans by Mercer, a healthcare benefits consulting firm.

The average employee benefits package costs companies $9,562 per employee in 2010, a 5.5 percent increase from the previous year. The survey indicated a 10 percent rise in benefits costs in 2011 if no changes were made to company plans.

Benefits comprised 29.4 percent of an employer's cost for compensation during the first of 2010, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Beth Umland, Mercer's director of health and benefits research, noted that deductibles for preferred provider organization (PPO) plans increased $100 over the past year.

Companies have taken measures to decrease benefits expenditures, including dropping HMOs from company plans, increasing consumer-direct health plans and offering financial incentives through wellness plans for employees.

Larger businesses experienced the biggest increase as rates climbed 8.5 percent for companies with more than 500 employees. Small business (1-499 employees) witnessed a 4.4 percent hike in 2010.

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