The NBGH survey, based on responses from 72 of the nation's largest corporations, indicates that more than half of employers are moving ahead with changes to their benefit plans despite some uncertainty about how new regulations implementing health reform will affect existing health plans.
The rising cost of health benefits is partly due to the cost of implementing various health-reform requirements.
One in four employers says that complying with health reform will boost 2011 health-plan costs by 3 percent or more, according to Mercer L.L.C., an employee benefits consulting firm. About 40 percent of the 791 employers surveyed by Mercer believe health reform will have a more modest impact, raising plan costs by 2 percent or less.
Employee premiums, deductibles and co-payments or co-insurance can differ widely from one job-based plan to another. Even the array of covered benefits may differ from one employer to another.
"If you think of all the summary plan descriptions and the benefits booklets that describe what the employer coverage looks like, and if you put those on top of one another, they'd probably be taller than the Empire State Building," said Bill Rosenberg, director of the global human resource solutions group of PricewaterhouseCoopers in New York City.
Health reform will ensure that all health plans -- even existing employer-sponsored plans -- offer certain protections to their members. If your health plan has a lifetime dollar limit on essential benefits, for example, that will disappear. If your employer offers coverage of dependents, but only up to, say, age 19, it must extend eligibility to young adults under the age of 26.
Health plans that have been in place since the health reform law passed in March may be "grandfathered" -- or exempt -- from other requirements, such as co
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