Employer health benefits expenditures may increase about 6% in 2009.

Consultants at Towers Perrin Inc., Stamford, Conn., have published that figure in an analysis of cost and performance figures for 321 employers with 6.6 million health plan participants.

Towers Perrin says the average cost of coverage will increase to $9,660 per employee.

About half of the employers will offer account-based health plans, but only about 20% of the eligible employees at employers with account-based plans are in the account-based plans, Towers Perrin researchers report.

About 58% of the employers that have done a good job of controlling health plan costs say their account-based health plans are meeting cost objectives, but only 14% of the employers that do a poor job of controlling health plan costs say their account-based plans are meeting objectives, the researchers report.