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It’s the incredible shrinking benefit.

Next year, like the current year and the year before that and the…, employer-provided health insurance will cost workers more. And fewer workers will get that  benefit from their jobs at all.

40% of employers surveyed by the Kaiser Family Foundation as part of its annual poll say that in 2010 they will increase the co-pays that workers will have to take out of their own pockets when they see a doctor. About the same percentage say they will raise annual deductibles and raise the charge for prescription drugs. A slightly higher percentage, 41%, say they will increase what workers pay in premiums.

Oh, and 8% say they plan to drop coverage entirely. (About 9% say they will tighten eligibility for health benefits. No telling how many workers will lose insurance because of those changes.)

 The numbers in the Kaiser survey are actually somewhat more positive than those in other recent surveys. (Now doesn’t that make you feel better?)

A survey by benefits consultant Mercer, for example,  found that almost two-thirds of companies plan to have employees pay a bigger share of health care costs in 2010.

Annual premiums for employer-provided health insurance for families rose by 5% in the 12-month period that ended in April 2009. That was a big improvement from the 13% rate of increase in 2002 and 2003. But it still doesn’t qualify as good news since at 5% the  rate of  premium increase substanially outstripped general inflation, which fell by 0.7% during that period.