Healthcare costs will continue to climb at double-digit rates next year, though at their slowest pace since 2001, according to a new study by benefits consultant Hewitt Associates. Healthcare costs for all employers are expected to rise an average of 12.6% in 2004, marking the fourth straight year of double-digit rate hikes. But next year's increase is down from annual increases of 14.7% in 2003 and 15.2% in 2002, the study shows. The good news is that we expect healthcare costs will begin to moderate over the next few years. The bad news is that companies should still expect 9% to 14% rate hikes," said Jack Bruner, Hewitt's national healthcare practice leader. The survey jibes with another released last month by Towers Perrin, which forecast average rate increases for large employers of 12% next year, compared with 16% in 2003 and 14% in 2002. -- by Laura B. Benko
2004 healthcare costs to rise at double-digit rates
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