If you think paying $2.75 for gas is a bargain, here’s more news you can use as companies prepare to let workers sign up for health care plans: The average cost of health insurance premiums climbed just 7.7 percent over the past year. That was the slowest rate of increase since 2000 — down from 9 percent the previous year and a far cry from the nearly 14 percent jump three years ago, according to the annual benchmark survey released Tuesday by the Kaiser Family Foundation. The flip side: Premiums to cover a family have vaulted 87 percent since 2000 — more than four times the rate of inflation and the growth of wages — a trend that is forcing millions of Americans to go without insurance coverage. ‘We get excited when gas goes below $3 a gallon,” said Helen Darling, president of the National Business Group on Health. “Some of us would say that’s crazy, but you do look for the tiny signs of hope, and you could say that’s one of them.” Experts say premiums would be rising even faster if employers, workers and insurers weren’t making health care trade-offs. Many employers are restricting […]

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