Employers Continue to Look for Savings
The recent trend of shifting more health care and benefit costs to employees is showing no signs of letting up, according to new industry research.
A survey by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) found that 22 percent of employers had medical deductibles of at least $1,000 this year for in-network services for their most popular plans, according to a report in Business Insurance, compared with just 8 percent in 2008. Twice as many employers (44 percent) imposed that deductible level on out-of-network services this year, the survey found.
"The biggest change in the past two years has been the increase in cost sharing with employees," said Michael Thompson, a PwC principal. "Employers have been careful not to shift premium costs to employees, but have decided that the better way to shift costs is to require those who use health care services to pay more."
A separate report by Milliman also points to an increase in cost sharing in PPO family plans. According to Healthcare Town Hall, a website sponsored by Milliman, the survey found that the average premium cost of those plans this year increased $1,319, or 7.3 percent. Of the total cost increase, employers paid $641, while workers picked up the rest, totaling an increase of $275 in additional cost sharing and an additional $403 in payroll contributions..
Many employers, however, are searching for solutions beyond deductible increases. More employers -- especially midsize companies -- are turning to voluntary benefits to reduce their burden while still offering valuable benefits to their employees, according to a new LIMRA study. While employers traditionally have used voluntary benefits as a morale booster, nearly 80 percent of polled employers said they are most interested in voluntary worksite benefits because they bring no direct costs to their business, an online PLANSPONSOR news report noted. Two-thirds said they offer such benefits because it boosts their overall benefits package and allows workers to receive services cheaper than if they tried to buy coverage in the marketplace.
Although the trend of cost sharing is growing, U.S. workers are starting to see improvements in their overall compensation, which is creeping back toward pre-recession levels, according to a recent Buck Consultants survey published on the Society for Human Resource Management's website. Only 9 percent of polled employers still have a pay freeze in place - down from 48 percent in mid-2010. More companies also are restarting bonus programs in an effort to retain top talent, the survey said.