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Survey: 2015 health costs to grow 6.5% or less

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in Compensation and Benefits,Human Resources

Large employers’ health care benefit costs are expected to increase 6.5% in 2015, slightly lower than this year’s rate of increase. Most employers, however, say they’re planning changes to their benefits programs that should limit cost growth to 5% or less when all is said and done.

The projections come from the latest annual survey of the National Business Group on Health, a nonprofit association of nearly 400 large U.S. employers.

The projected health care cost increase for 2015 comes in under the 7% increase employers would have experienced this year had they made no changes to their plan designs.

However, employers expect to keep increases down next year by increasing cost-sharing provisions, expanding wellness programs and implementing consumer-directed health plans (CDHPs).

In fact, CDHPs—such as health savings accounts and health reimbursement arrangements—are expected to surge in 2015.

CDHPs are attractive because they let employers contribute a lump sum to an employee’s personal health care account, which the employee then uses to pay for medical expenses. CDHPs are often easier and less costly to administer than traditional group health plans.

Advocates say they also make employees more thoughtful and thrifty health care consumers.

The survey found that:

  • 73% of large employers plan to add or expand tools to encourage employees to be better health care consumers.
  • 57% are implementing or expanding CDHPs (and the number of employers planning to offer a CDHP as their only benefit plan option next year is expected to grown by 50%).
  • 53% will either add or expand wellness program incentives.

No survey respondents indicated they planned to eliminate health benefits next year. Only 3% of employers said they planned to  provide health coverage through a private health insurance exchange, although 35% said they are considering doing so for 2016 or beyond.

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