Based on a survey by the National Business Group on Health, large employers are, as usual, in a cost shifting mood. Despite all the political back slapping, health care costs have not been lowered, have not been controlled and are still increasing at several times general inflation. What does this all mean for workers? It means a likely net reduction in their discretionary income and greater financial risk.
Here are the top three changes large employers are planning for 2016. Note how employers are getting more involved in telling you what health care to receive if you want to be reimbursed.
Few people will admit it, but we are on the road to eliminating employer-provided health benefits. It will take several more years, but eventually we will get there … to the detriment of workers in my opinion. 😪
1. Higher premiums. Large employers expect their health care costs to increase by about 5% for 2016 – the same size increase they expected in 2014 and 2015. They plan to pass along some of the extra cost to employees but more of it to dependents, with employees contributing 20% of their own premiums and 24% of the premiums for dependents (higher-income employees may pay more). About one-third of the companies plan to add a surcharge for spouses who could get coverage elsewhere but don’t. But very few (only 4%) plan to exclude spouses who have similar coverage available through their own employer.
2. More high-deductible health plans. Employers are continuing to try to contain rising costs by forcing employees to take more control of their health care: 83% of large employers plan to offer a consumer-directed health insurance plan in 2016 (primarily high-deductible health insurance paired with a health savings account). Half of the employers plan to offer the high-deductible plan as an option, and 33% plan to offer it as the only option. More than half contribute to employees’ HSAs, giving them tax-free money for medical expenses; some add more if you participate in a wellness program or take a health risk assessment. For more information about HSAs, see FAQs About Health Savings Accounts.
3. Restrictions on expensive drugs. Employers identified the cost of specialty drugs as one of the major causes for health care cost increases, and they’re imposing more restrictions on coverage. More than three-quarters of the employers surveyed plan to use prior authorization for some of these specialty medications – requiring physicians to fill out forms explaining why you need the specific drug. Three-quarters plan to use step therapy, covering the drug only after you’ve tried a list of less-expensive medications first.