MINNEAPOLIS (AP) _ Minnesota's four largest small-business health insurers are
proposing average premium increases next year.

Increases range from 8 to 17 percent. Some insurers say the increases are needed because enrollees are consuming more care while medical costs are rising.

The proposed increases could affect about 160,000 people. They're also
rekindling fears that some small businesses might drop group coverage.

Employers with two to 50 workers are in the small-group market in Minnesota.
According to federal data, that includes more than 275,000 enrollees this year.

Mike Hickey is the state director for the National Federation of Independent
Business. He says the increases are cause for concern because they're higher
than health insurance inflation.

The Minnesota Commerce Department is expected to release final rates in