Typical non-group health insurance policyholders have seen premium increases average about 20% this year, researchers say.

Consumers in the individual and family health coverage market also are getting coverage with higher deductibles than they would get if they had employer-sponsored coverage, the researchers say.

The researchers announced those findings today during a press conference organized by the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, Menlo Park, Calif.

The researchers reported on results of a survey of 1,038 U.S. residents ages 18 to 64 who have bought their own health coverage. The survey was conducted between March 19 and April 2.

The researchers looked at topics such as the cost of coverage, policyholders’ out-of-pocket costs, and policyholders’ responses to rate increases.

Kaiser believes the survey is the first of its type that has been done, according to Drew Altman, Kaiser’s president.

It is important “to get a more scientific picture of the individual market,” Altman said.

About 14 million U.S. residents under age 65 have non-group commercial health coverage, Kaiser estimates.

About 77% of the non-group coverage holders said the cost of their coverage has increased, and some holders said the cost has increased more than once. Kaiser asked survey participants to tell it about the size of the most recent increase, said Mollyann Brodie, a Kaiser vice president.

Some policyholders told Kaiser they coped with proposed increases in non-group rates by switching plans. But non-group coverage holders still paid 13% more than they were paying before the premiums increased, Kaiser found.

“Increases like these are illustrative of what is happening around the country,” Altman said.

Altman predicted that the recent “warfare” over individual health premiums at the state level is likely to intensify around the country.

Average annual premiums for those in the individual market are $3,606, which is less than the average 2009 group plan premium, Kaiser says.

But the average deductible for single coverage is $2,498, compared with an average deductible of just $634 at employer-sponsored group plans, and about 25% of the non-group coverage holders said their deductible is $5,000 or more.

About 81% of the non-group coverage holders with pre-existing conditions said they are worried their insurers will charge premiums that will end up being unaffordable.