The number of people covered by small group health insurance in Minnesota grew by 15 percent last year, ending a string of annual enrollment declines stretching back to 2004.

Price hikes and tight limits last year on doctor and hospital choices in the individual market prompted consumers to look for ways to go back to the small group market.

The small group market gives employer health plans with coverage to groups of 50 people or less. The market had been shrinking for years as employers struggled with rising health care costs.

Insurers say the state’s stronger economy and tight labor market have assisted in driving the increase, along with employers working to recruit and retain talented employees.