Employers expect 7 percent increase in benefit costs

By BenefitsPro


By Dan Cook

The cost of providing employee health care benefits at the nation’s largest employers is projected to increase by an average of 7 percent in 2014, according to a survey by the National Business Group on Health.

The survey, based on responses from 108 of the nation’s largest corporations, also found more companies plan to offer workers a consumer-directed health plan as their only health benefits option in 2014. CDHPs, because of their high deductibles, are less expensive than preferred provider organizations and other more traditional plans.

That said, working for a mega-enterprise is a good thing, at least from the perspective of health care benefits.

The NBGH, a lobbying and research organization that represents large employers’ perspective on national health policy issues, said it found plenty of evidence that these companies are often doing much more than merely offering health coverage.

For instance, big companies want to help workers control their weight. The study found that 66 percent of plans cover the cost of “surgical interventions for the treatment of severe obesity.” More than half offer on-site weight management programs.

Nearly half (44 percent) of respondents said they already have an on-site clinic, and another 9 percent said they’d have one by the end of next year.

Also, 89 percent pay for a tobacco cessation program, and nine in 10 have on-site health assessments and/or biometric screenings.

“Employers continue to implement numerous tactics to control costs, improve employee health and productivity and ensure the delivery of high quality health care to their employees and dependents,” Helen Darling, NBGH CEO and president, said in a news release.

On the topic of costs, the survey found that the number of employers that are offering only a CDHP to employees continues to rise, with 22 percent planning to implement a total replacement CDHP next year, up from 19 percent this year.

The 7 percent increase budgeted for health benefits in 2014 is the same increase reported in 2012 and 2013.

Elsewhere, the survey found employers expect that certain populations may find the coming PPACA exchanges to be a viable option on an individual basis in 2014.

Roughly four in 10 employers believe COBRA plan participants might find public health exchanges to be the most cost-effective option. Additionally, more than one-fourth felt that some pre-65 retirees might opt to join exchanges, while 20 percent believe that some part-time employees will do the same.

Originally published on BenefitsPro.com