By Lisa Zamosky
The National Business Group on Health conducts an annual survey to take the pulse of some of the country’s largest employers about their plans for the coming year with regard to health benefits. This year’s survey involved 82 employers.
Here, a run-down of the survey’s results and four changes to anticipate for next year’s health benefits:
1. Rising costs: The rate at which employers expect health care costs to rise in 2013 has held steady at about 7%, the same percentage costs rose in 2012.
Some of those costs will come out of your wallet: most employers say they’ll raise premiums by about 5% in 2013.
But that’s not all. Your costs may also increase in the form of rising deductibles for both in and out-of-network care, out-of-pocket maximums, and prescriptions you buy at retail pharmacies. A small number of employers said they plan to raise coinsurance (the percentage of the bill you pay) for doctor visits.
2. High-deductible Health Plans: More than half of employers (54%) plan to offer high-deductible health plans as an option, the majority of which are paired with health savings accounts (HSAs) that allow you to invest money tax free to help pay for medical care.
To encourage employees to join one of these plans, which are less expensive for employers, 43% of those surveyed said they’d make a contribution averaging $500 to employees’ HSA accounts. For employees who complete a wellness program, there’s an average of $400 to be gained.
Nearly 1 in 5 (19%) employers say a high-deductible plan will be the only health plan option made available to employees, up from 7% in 2009.
The good news is that 79% of large employers now offer some kind of price transparency tool that allows you to search for and compare medical costs, something you need to take advantage of with high-deductible health plans that have you on the hook for more of your healthcare costs.
3. Commitment to wellness: Employers believe that workers’ health habits (or more to the point, general lack thereof) are a big reason for rising healthcare costs, with obesity and the illnesses that come with it (heart disease, diabetes) leading the way.
To combat this, employers will continue a trend that’s been building for several years now and increase financial incentives for employees to get involved in wellness programs.
In fact, nearly half (48%) of those surveyed said they’ll use incentives in 2013 to get workers involved in wellness programs, with $450 being the median amount up for grabs (up by 50% from 2012).
Dependents on your plan can earn money too – about $375.
But you can’t just sign up and forget about your health goals. Nearly 3 in 10 employers (29%) said rewards for participating in wellness programs will be tied to reaching your goal – such as losing weight or reaching a particular cholesterol level. More than 1 in 5 said they’ll actually charge employees who fail to participate.
4. Health reform changes: The Affordable Care Act has so far brought with it many changes to health insurance benefits, with many more to come. The survey inquired about the changes employers have already put in place or plan to in response to the health reform law. Here’s what they said:
- 50% eliminated annual benefit limits
- 32% made no changes to annual limits
- 9% altered annual limits for mental health and substance abuse services
- 9% lifted annual limits for rehabilitative services and devices
- 57% have no health plan options that meet grandfathered status (plans that were already in place when health reform became law and are exempt from complying with some provisions). That’s an 8% jump from this year.
Have you heard any rumors about how your employer will change health benefits for next year? Share what you know in the comments section.