Employers will continue to shift healthcare benefit costs to employees either by increased contributions or plan design, according to the 2011 Benefit Options Survey released by Indianapolis-based United Benefit Advisors, an employee benefits advisory firm.
The good news is that employers are committed to providing healthcare benefits to active employees and their dependents. Almost 77% said they recognized the value of the benefits while 96% responded that good benefits help attract and retain employees. More significantly, more than half the employers continue to believe they should shoulder the brunt of future health plan premium increases.
Looking at what might happen to health plans in the next five years, 87% of respondents expect to see more healthcare benefit costs shifted to employees. Among the cost-sharing strategies, 5% of respondents said they planned to implement a high-deductible health plan with a health reimbursement arrangement; 6% said they planned to implement an HDHP with a health savings account this year.
In considering plan design changes in 2011, 22% of employers expect to increase deductibles; 21% are looking at increases for office visits and emergency room copays; 17% will increase prescription drug copays; and 13% expect to increase copays for specialists. Only 5 % are looking at value-based plan design.
There is continued employer interest in incorporating programs that stress prevention and personal health management, such as wellness programs with health risk assessments and disease management programs to help employees with chronic conditions. After wellness and disease management, the component most likely to be added is a cost differential for smokers vs. non-smokers.