| NEW YORK
NEW YORK Aug 13 When benefits enrollment season
arrives this fall, employees around the country can expect to
see the impact of corporate cost-cutting on their finances.
Benefits costs will rise only 5 percent for employers that
take certain cost-reduction measures, instead of 6.5 percent for
companies that do not, according to a June survey of employers
representing 7.5 million workers by the National Business Group
Although costs are not rising as quickly, employees are
still being squeezed.
The main way companies are keeping healthcare costs in line
is by shifting workers into high-deductible health plans,
defined by the Internal Revenue Service as having deductibles
above $1,250 for an individual. (here)
For 2015, 81 percent of employers will offer a
high-deductible plan as an option, up from 72 percent last year;
while 32 percent will offer such plans as the only option, up
from 22 percent last year.
The challenge employers face is: "How do you keep costs from
spiraling out of control but not shift all of it to the
employee?" said Karen Marlo, a vice president at NGBH who
authored the report.
Data on average premium and out-of-pocket increases
consumers can expect in their next benefits packets will follow
from other research groups covering the health insurance
"You need to get smart and look at the whole package," said
Jeff Bakke, a board member of the Healthcare Trends Institute, a
non-partisan trade group. "What you pay for premiums and
out-of-pocket, which averages about $9,000, could feed a family
of four for a year," he added.
LOSE WEIGHT, STOP SMOKING
The other major cost-saving measure for employers cited in
the study is related to wellness programs.
Fifty-three percent of large companies plan to add or expand
such programs in 2015. The programs encourage employees to lose
weight, quit smoking and make other healthy lifestyle changes,
mostly by offering cash incentives that amount to $600 per
person, the report found.
While companies find these programs to be one of the most
effective ways to save money, there is no quantitative data
about the overall impact on employees' health or how much money
it saves employers.
"When people say wellness will be the key to saving us all
money, maybe they jumped the gun on that," NGBH's Marlo said.
"There is a larger component, though. A healthier employee might
save money down the road."
Other cost-saving measures reported in the survey were
mostly restrictions on care or medication, including requiring
prior authorization or quantity limits on specialty medications
or narrowing the network of doctor choices.
(Follow us @ReutersMoney or here.
Editing by Lauren Young and Dan Grebler)