While the individual health insurance market is a core component of most insurers' businesses, plans purchased by corporations and small businesses make up another sizable and profitable portion of their product shares. In recent years, many companies have been forced to scale back their benefit plans as a way to stay afloat during the recession. Many companies have not only eliminated their retirement programs, but also canceled or limited their health insurance benefits due to rising costs.

According to the latest research from the Commonwealth Fund, employers have seen health insurance premiums increase significantly in recent years, and employees themselves have also absorbed a rising level of health insurance costs. According to the data, average premiums for employers increased 62 percent between 2003 and 2011. On a dollar basis, companies paid an average of $15,022 in 2011, up from $9,249 in 2003.

In addition, the research reveals that rates rose faster than incomes in all states, placing a greater financial burden on workers and their employers. As many companies may not have been in a position to absorb the rising costs, the cost was largely transferred to employees. During the same period, workers saw payments for their health coverage increase by an average of 74 percent, along with average deductibles which more than doubled. The latter rose by 117 percent during this period.

Affordable Care Act is expected to lower employer and employee healthcare costs

The implementation of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) is expected to increase competitiveness and make health coverage more affordable for consumers. Already, many companies are joining state exchanges, while many health insurance marketing agencies are teaming up with hospitals, doctors, pharmacies and other related groups to appeal to prospective clients.

"Wherever you live in the United States, health insurance is expensive, and for many middle- as well as low-income families it is becoming ever less affordable," said Commonwealth Fund senior vice president Cathy Schoen, lead author of the report. "Workers are paying more for less financial protection when they get sick. The steady increase in health care costs over the past decade underscores the urgent need to build on the groundwork laid by the Affordable Care Act to slow the growth in private insurance costs."

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