ACCA survey finds a 10 percent increase in insurance premiums over the last year.

ARLINGTON, Va. - HVAC contractors continue to see their health insurance expenses rise, according to a recent survey of 210 members of the Air-Conditioning Contractors of America.

Among those who responded, 69 percent saw their insurance premiums increases more than 10 percent in 2004. Another 22 percent saw an increase of 20 percent.

Heath insurance premium hikes are nothing new for ACCA members. In 2003, 79 percent of respondents to a similar survey saw a 10 percent increase in health care premiums, while 26 percent reported a premium increase of more than 20 percent.

In response to the growing premiums, more contractors are reducing benefits for their employees. In 2003, more than 50 percent of participants reduced available health benefits due to increasing costs. In 2004, 56 percent did the same. Few contractors are increasing benefits: Only 10 percent increased health coverage in 2004.

On average, contractors asked require their employees to pay 28 percent of premium costs, while 39 percent require employees to pay zero to 10 percent of premiums. About 30 percent reported that they require employees to pay 40 percent or more.

The ACCA report also found that 74 percent of employees are participating in contractor-sponsored health insurance programs. Health insurance costs account for 5.2 percent, on average, of the contractors' total expense outlays. This is down from the 2002 study, possibly based on the decreasing coverage options being offered to employees, according to the ACCA.

The 2005 "Health Insurance Benefits Analysis" breaks down statistics by company size and region, allowing contractors to compare their performance to similar contractors.

For more information on the report, visit www.acca.org.biz/datatools.