Annual health care costs for people with employer-sponsored health insurance rose 3.8 percent in the fourth quarter of 2011 when compared to the fourth quarter of 2010, and 0.8 percent from the third quarter of 2011, according to the Thomson Reuters Healthcare Spending Index for Private Insurance.
The index measures historical and current levels of per capita health care spending for people with employer-sponsored coverage and provides a benchmark measure for health care inflation.
Although health care costs continue to rise, the pace has slowed compared to the 4 percent annual growth rate through the third quarter of 2010.
The index tracks spending for such components as hospital care, physician services and prescription drugs. Hospital costs grew sharply, up 5.6 percent in the fourth quarter of 2011 over the same quarter in 2010. Both physician and drug costs increased 2.3 percent year over year in the fourth quarter.
"Insurance costs are still on the rise," Gary Pickens, chief research officer at the Thomson Reuters Center for Healthcare Analytics, said in a press release. "Hikes in all of the key areas would seem to imply the country has yet to reach a lull in spending."