Large Employers Consider Cost-Cutting Measures

Employers are eyeing cost-control measures for their health plans, such as asking workers to pay more of the premium while sharply boosting financial rewards for health and wellness, according to a survey by the National Business Group on Health. The survey also found that employers are continuing adjusting their benefit plans to comply with additional provisions of the health reform law.

Employers expect health care benefits costs to increase 7% in 2013. That’s the same increase they projected for this year, but it’s smaller than what employers experienced the previous three years.

Sixty percent plan to increase the percentage of the premium that employees pay in 2013, although the majority of those employers said that the increase would be less than 5%. Additionally, 40% will increase in-network deductibles; 33% will increase out-of-network deductibles; and 32% will increase out-of pocket maximums.

Helen Darling, president and CEO of the National Business Group on Health said, “Although cost increases have stabilized somewhat, they are still on a higher base from last year and are simply not sustainable, especially when our nation’s economy and workers’ wages are virtually flat and everybody is struggling.”

Forty-three percent say that the most effective cost control option is a consumer driven health plan; 19% cited wellness programs; and 9% cited employee cost-sharing.

Employers are experimenting with financial incentives in wellness programs. Forty-eight percent of employers use incentives to encourage participation in programs and some employers are basing incentives on health outcomes. Forty-four percent provide incentives based on tobacco-use status;  29% base incentives on outcomes, such as BMI or cholesterol levels; and 22% apply surcharges to employees for not participating in certain programs.

Among employers that offer incentives, the median amount employees can earn will jump 50% from $300 this year to $450 next year. The median incentive amount that dependents can earn is expected to increase from $250 this year to $375 in 2013.

Respondents were asked what changes they made or are planning to make as regulations from the Affordable Care Act (ACT) come into effect. The survey found the following:
• 50% no longer have annual benefit limits while nearly 32% did not change their annual limits this year. Among employers making changes for 2013, the most common benefits requiring adjustments to their annual limits were mental health and substance abuse (9%) and rehabilitative services and devices (9%).
•57% did not have any benefit option in grandfather status this year, compared to 49% last year. However, 27% will have at least one grandfathered health plan this year.
•51% say that some retirees may find state health insurance exchanges to be a viable option for health insurance; 38% say that COBRA plan participants may consider exchanges; and 35% say that part-time employees might consider exchanges. For more information, visit

Last Updated 08/10/2022

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