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N.J.'s average health plan premium is highest in U.S., report says

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New Jerseyans had the highest average health plan premium, $968 a month, in Automatic Data Processing's inaugural report on health benefits, which is designed to follow the same group of 175 large U.S.-based employers to help gauge the impact of the Affordable Care Act, which takes full effect next year.

ADP, in Roseland, looked at actual client data from those 175 employers, who operate in 21 states and employ 1,000 or more. ADP will continue to look at results from those same employers as it updates the report annually going forward.

While New Jersey was the highest, the cost of health coverage is rising more slowly in New Jersey than in the other states, according to the report. Since 2010, when the ACA was enacted, New Jersey premiums rose 6.9 percent, compared to 14 percent nationally, according to the report. The 2013 average monthly premium is $832, and ranges from $733 in North Carolina to $968 here.

Overall, the report found considerable variation in employee participation in health plans. Among employees aged 40 and older, nearly 70 percent participate in the employer's health plan, while only half of employees under 30 participate.

Related: State issues license to its newest health insurance company

ADP has 600,000 clients in more than 125 countries, and provides business outsourcing services such as payroll, human resources, talent management, and tax and benefits solutions.

Dave Marini, vice president and managing director of ADP Strategic Advisory Services, said the company decided to create an annual health benefits report, so employers "have the ability to look at trends going forward as the ACA begins to roll out in 2014, when most of the provisions start taking effect."

The high cost of health coverage in New Jersey compared to other states is in line with other surveys and data. For example, Medicare spending per beneficiary in New Jersey is among the highest in the nation.

As to why the rate of growth in New Jersey since 2010 is half the average for the states in the ADP report, Marini said it may be that costs rose earlier in New Jersey, and the state may be ahead of the curve in efforts to mitigate increases through wellness programs, consumer-driven health plans and efforts to make individuals better consumers of health care.

Reporter Beth Fitzgerald is @BethFitzgerald8 on Twitter.

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