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Health Care Benefit Cost Increases to Remain at 6 Percent in 2009
Date:2/19/2009

Move to Consumer-Directed Health Plans Continues, Watson Wyatt/National Business Group on Health Survey Finds

WASHINGTON, Feb. 19 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ -- U.S. employers expect health care cost increases to hold steady at 6 percent and more plan to adopt consumer-directed health plans (CDHPs) in 2010 in an effort to control cost increases, according to a forthcoming survey by Watson Wyatt, a leading global consulting firm, and the National Business Group on Health, an association of more than 300 mostly large employers, including 64 of the Fortune 100.

The survey of 489 large U.S. employers found that the median rate of health cost increases is expected to remain at 6 percent in 2009, although this is still nearly twice the rate of inflation. The increase is the same rate that employers experienced in both 2007 and 2008. In 2006, health care costs increased by 8 percent.

"Cost increases have stabilized, but the financial crisis is causing many companies to reevaluate their health plan strategies," said Ted Nussbaum, group and health care practice leader at Watson Wyatt. "While large-scale changes appear unlikely, economic realities are leading companies to adopt strategies that emphasize greater personal health accountability to their workers."

Just more than half (51 percent) of companies now offer workers a CDHP, up from 47 percent in 2008. Another 8 percent are expected to adopt a CDHP by 2010. CDHPs are helping employers control costs -- companies with at least half of their workers enrolled in a CDHP have a two-year cost trend (4.6 percent) that is 25 percent lower than non-CDHP sponsors (6.1 percent). Still, challenges remain for employers trying to provide more affordable coverage to their workers.

Two-thirds of employers (67 percent) cite the poor health habits of their employees as a considerable challenge to managing their health care costs. Other challenges i
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SOURCE Watson Wyatt
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