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But companies should prepare for a painful 4 percent increase this year
For the third year in a row, health care costs in the United States have inched upward only slightly, according to a study recently published by Foster Higgins, a New York City-based benefits consultant.
Health care costs increased just 2.5 percent in 1996 - well below the 3 percent consumer price index jump during the same period, but higher than the 2.1 percent health care cost increase reported last year.
Health benefit costs averaged $3,915 per employee in the United States in 1996, compared to $3,821 in 1995, the study reports.
But employers should gird themselves for a more significant jump in health care costs in 1997 - about 4 …