The drive to expand access to health coverage may be increasing the cost of group health coverage.

Consultants at Buck Consultants, New York, a unit of Affiliated Computer Services Inc., Dallas, include that observation in a summary of results from a recent survey of about 100 health carriers and health plan administrators.

The survey participants, whose companies provide coverage for about 95 million U.S. residents, expect the rate of increase for preferred provider organization plans to be about 11% this year and in 2010, roughly the same as it’s been this year.

Survey participants expect the rate of increase for plans that incorporate health savings accounts or other personal health accounts to be about 10.4%, down from 10.7%.

The cost of implementing the new mental health parity law and the new coverage continuation subsidy for involuntarily terminated workers may be responsible for some of the cost increases, according to Harvey Sobel, a Buck consulting actuary.

Carriers “may also attempt to increase their prices prior to the implementation of national health care reform,” Sobel says.