New Jersey group health insurance costs rose 11% in 2006, to $7,561 per covered employee, according to a business group.

Health coverage costs have risen by more than 10% for 5 straight years, officials at the New Jersey Business and Industry Association, Trenton, N.J., write in a new survey report.

The average increase was slightly less than 10% at employers with 20 or more employees, but the average increase was 12% at employers with 2 to 19 employees.

The employers in the smaller category now pay an average of $7,577 per employee.

As a result of the increases, 34% of employers surveyed changed plans; 21% changed their insurance carriers; 32% raised employee copayments; 32% raised out-of-pocket deductibles; and 19% raised employees’ premium contributions.

In addition, 18% said they limited wage and salary increases as a result of rising health plan costs, while 10% eliminated some types of medical coverage and 8% scaled back hiring plans.

The NJBIA found that 82% of businesses with 2 to 19 employees provided coverage in 2006, down from 87% in 2004 and 92% in 2003.