NU Online News Service, Sept. 5, 10:00 a.m. – Kaiser Family Foundation/Health Research and Educational Trust, Washington, today released the results of a survey that indicate that sharply rising health care costs and the downturn in the economy have resulted in higher premium contributions and cost-sharing requirements for workers, and cutbacks in the scope of health benefits offered by firms.

The annual survey of employer health benefit plans finds that premiums have increased 12.7%, the highest increase since 1990. Single premiums are now, on average, $3,060 for single coverage, and $7,954 for family coverage.

The survey also finds that the amount employees pay for coverage has risen substantially. For single coverage, employees now pay an average of $454 per year ? a 27%, or $95 increase from last year. The employee share of premiums for family coverage averaged $2,084 per year — a 16%, or $283 increase from last year.

Also among the survey findings is that deductibles for preferred provider organization in-network providers rose 37% to $276 in 2002, up from $201 last year.

The survey also shows that the use of three-tiered cost sharing has nearly doubled since 2000, from 29% to 57% this year. The cost of drugs within these tiers is also higher — brand name drugs with generic substitutes now cost $26 per prescription, up from $20 per prescription in 2001.

Nine-percent of large firms (200 or more workers) eliminated retiree benefits for new-hires or existing employees in the last two years, according to the survey.

The annual survey of employer health benefit plans was conducted between January and May of this year, and surveyed 3,262 randomly selected public and private firms ranging in size from three to more than 300,000 employees.