NU Online News Service, Oct. 8, 2003, 2:35 p.m. EST – Average health plan costs are 15% higher this year than they were in 2002, according to survey results released by the benefits consulting and benefits brokerage units at Wells Fargo & Company, San Francisco.

Researchers at the units found that 59% of the 350 large and midsize companies that they surveyed had cost increases of at least 13%, and 23% had cost increases of more than 20%.

The cost of the most popular type of coverage, preferred provider organization coverage, averages $3,750 per year for participating employers, and the cost of full family PPO coverage averages $9,900 per year.

Only 7% of employers surveyed pay the full cost of full-family coverage, but 23% still pay the full cost of employee-only coverage.

Defined contribution plans are still rare, but the Wells Fargo units report that 7% of employers surveyed now offer DC plans.

Other survey results:

- Only 17% of the surveyed employers say their employees are comfortable with the Internet.

- Fewer than 25% of the employers are comfortable with the idea of using the Internet for enrollment and health care plan transactions.