This year, groups of more than 20 workers have been experiencing premium increases of around 20 percent, insurance agents say, while smaller groups are seeing increases of 40 percent to 60 percent or more.
Economists and state regulators say health insurance is expensive primarily because health care is expensive.
Some insurance industry lobbyists say the new federal health care law is driving up premiums. But Vincent Capozzi, senior vice president for sales and customer service at Harvard Pilgrim, said that only one percentage point of the increases here was attributable to the federal law, mainly its requirement for free coverage of preventive services.
Another percentage point results from new state laws requiring coverage of hearing aids and certain treatments for autism, Mr. Capozzi said. Most of the remainder, he said, reflects increases in the use and cost of medical care by small-group customers, with adjustments for demographic characteristics like age.