Employees may bear more health care costs in 2006

NEW YORK (AP)_Here's another kind of inflation to worry about, involving rising health care costs.

The nation's employers, struggling with surging increases in health insurance costs next year, plan to shift more of the burden to workers.

A survey of more than 1,800 firms released by Mercer consulting finds employers expect a nearly ten percent increase in health care costs next year. That's about three times the rate of overall inflation.

Companies polled are only earmarking an average increase of six-point-four percent in their spending. That would mark the third straight year that employers are seeing their actual health care costs slow as they pass on more of the costs to their workers.

Smaller employers, much more likely to use insured, rather than self-funded health plans, will probably see smaller cost increases next year. That's compared with employers of 500 or more people, according to Mercer.

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