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Ask the Experts

Are Health Care Premiums Going Up Again?

Employees could pay 11 percent more next year

Q. It's getting close to the time of year when employees at my company have to choose between health care plans for next year. It seems every year I end up paying higher premiums. Will that be the case for 2012?

A. Most likely. According to a study released in October by the financial services and consulting firm Aon Hewitt, both you and your employer will be paying more for your medical plan next year.

See also: What entrepreneurs need to know about insurance.

Mature man lifting weight - employees may pay about 11 percent more next year for health insurance premiums.

Many employers offer financial incentives for workers who try to improve their health. — Photo by Seth Joel/Getty Images

For most organizations, health care costs will rise by 7 percent on average, to $10,475 per employee, compared with $9,792 in 2011.

Although employers will fund most of that cost, employees are projected to contribute $2,306 on average in premiums, an increase of nearly 11 percent over this year, the study says.

And that doesn't include the average $2,275 employees will pay in out-of-pocket costs to providers in 2012.

There are steps you may be able to take to offset the higher expenses. For instance, many employers offer financial incentives for workers who try to improve their health. Check to see if your employer sponsors health risk assessments, cholesterol screenings and other programs to help you manage chronic conditions or to quit smoking — if you take part, you could get enhanced medical coverage or reduced premiums.

The best advice for workers during open enrollment season: Make sure you understand the coverage plans available and how they may have changed, and evaluate your choices.

Here are a few tips to get you started:

  •  Get a grasp of your out-of-pocket expenses by reviewing how much you spend on copayments, how often you typically visit the doctor and the cost of medications you take on a regular basis.
  • If you have a flexible spending account or other tax-free account for medical expenses, evaluate whether you've been contributing too much or too little based on your actual expenses.
  • Now that the health care reform law allows you to get coverage from your employer for adult children through age 26, in most cases, consider whether you'll want to do that.
  • Don't assume your current coverage remains the right choice for you. Changes to deductibles and policy provisions may no longer meet your needs. Choose a policy that best fits your current particulars.

Also of interest: The health care law and wellness programs. >>

Carole Fleck is a senior editor at the AARP Bulletin.

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