Good news! Or not.

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From the NYT.

After years of double-digit cost increases, the rate of growth in what employers pay for employee health insurance slowed significantly this year, according to an annual survey to be released today.

Sounds good, but…

But this slowing rate was largely the result of employers shifting more of the cost onto their employees and changing the kinds of plans they offer, said Barry Schilmeister, a senior health care consultant for Mercer.

Higher out-of-pocket costs for employees may also be slowing costs by discouraging workers from getting care, Mr. Schilmeister said. Small employers with fewer than 500 employees have been aggressive in shifting costs by raising deductibles and co-payments; these companies saw average cost increases of 5.5 percent in 2004. Many employers now offer plans that require deductibles of $1,000 or more.

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