NU Online News Service, Jan. 14, 2004, 5:23 p.m. EST – Large U.S. employers spent about $20.6 billion on retiree health benefits in 2003, up 13.7% from the 2002 spending level, according to survey results released by the Washington office of the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.[@@]

For retirees under age 65, retiree contributions increased 20%, to an average of $166 per month.

Average retiree contributions for retirees who were at least 65 increased 18%, to $83.

Researchers from Kaiser and Hewitt Associates Inc., Lincolnshire, Ill., are basing the survey results on responses from 408 large private employers that offer retiree health benefits.

The researchers found that 10% of the participating employers had eliminated subsidized retiree health benefits for future retirees in the past year, and 20% said they were likely to cut retiree health coverage for future retirees in the next 3 years.

But the researchers also found that 12% of the participants reported either adding or improving retiree health benefits in the past year.