NU Online News Service, Nov. 23, 2004, 5:01 p.m. EST

A broker group believes health coverage costs are continuing to increase at double-digit rates for many businesses.[@@]

Mercer Human Resource Consulting L.L.C., New York, reported yesterday that its survey of 3,000 public and private reporters found that health coverage costs have increased about 7.5% this year.

But the Council of Insurance Agents & Brokers, Washington, says its latest rate survey suggests that a plurality of employers have seen their rates go up 10% to 20%.

Although 11% of employers of all sizes say their rates have held steady or fallen, 40% of the employers with more than 500 employees say their rates have gone up 10% to 20%. The share with 10% to 20% rate increases is 64% at midsize employers and 55% at employers with 50 or fewer employees.

The total percentage of employers with health rate increases under 10% is 41% at big employers, 30% at midsize employers and 23% at small employers, according to the CIAB.