NU Online News Service, Aug. 8, 6:19 p.m. – Employers are continuing to experience double-digit health insurance cost inflation, according to Buck Consultants, New York.

Preferred provider organization plans dominate the group health market.

Overall PPO rate increases for the second half of 2002 and the first half of 2003 will average 14.8%, Buck says.

The increases will average 14.6% for point-of-service plans and 13.8% for health maintenance organizations.

Rates are going up faster for HMOs and POS plans than they were a year ago, but the magnitude of the increases has flattened out for PPOs, Buck says.

Meanwhile, at prescription drug plans, increases are averaging 16.9%, down from an average of 18.4% recorded a year ago, Buck says.

Buck is a unit of Mellon Financial Corp., Pittsburgh.