Insurance premiums rose by 6.7 percent this year for employee-only health plans and by 6 percent for employees with family coverage, the association found in a survey. Those figures compare with a 7.3-percent increase for both types of coverage in 2011.
The median cost of employee-only coverage is now $6,396, while the median for employee-plus-family coverage is $16,840.
The 2012 survey was completed by 354 institutions, including 15 systems that reported in the aggregate for multiple campuses, and represents a total of 485 institutions.
The lower rate of increases this year in the cost of college employee health plans mirrors the trend in the private sector. A survey of 342 businesses, released last week by the National Business Group on Health Care, found that employers forecast a 7-percent rise in health-insurance costs between 2012 and 2013, down from one-year rises of 7.7 percent in 2011 and 8 percent in 2010.
It's unclear what has caused the slowdown in cost increases. Some sources attribute it to factors like the economic downturn, which has led many employees to reduce their use of health-care services, and changes in insurance policies, such as opting for lower premiums with higher deductibles.
In the business survey, employers frequently cited new wellness programs, which typically support preventative care such as weight-loss plans, as important for keeping costs low. The use of such programs by colleges is also growing, the College and University Professional Association for Human Resources found. In the group's 2012 survey, 70 percent of institutions reported that they offered wellness programs, up from around 60 percent the year before.
A fact sheet with more information from the survey is available on the association's Web site.