"Employers are facing a multitude of challenges posed by rising health care costs, the weak economy and the financial and administrative impact of complying with the new health reform law," said Helen Darling, President and CEO of the National Business Group on Health. "As a result, employers are being much more aggressive in their use of cost sharing techniques and cost control programs, and are making certain that employees have more reasons to be cost-sensitive health care consumers."
Indeed, according to the survey, nearly three in four employers (73%) will offer employees at least one consumer directed health plan (CDHP) in 2012, a sharp increase from 61% that offer a plan this year. In addition, about two in ten employers (17%) will have or move to a total replacement consumer directed health plan in 2012. The most common type of CDHP plan is a high-deductible health plan with a health savings account (75%).
The survey also found that more than half (57%) provide employees' spouses and domestic partners access to telephonic or online weight management coaches while 54% provide access to online weight management tools. Approximately one-third of employees also make these programs available to employees' children.
Changes as a Result of Health Care Reform
Respondents were asked what changes they made or are planning to make as regulations from the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act continue to come into effect. The survey found the following:
- Annual Benefit Limits: The majority of employers (59%) are not making any changes for 2012, (full restrictions on benefit limits will be banned in 2014). However, more than one-fourth (27%) are making changes to annual limits for preventive and wellness services. Another 14% are making changes to annual limits for mental health and substance abuse services.
- Grandfather Status: Nearly one fourth (23%) will have at least one benefit option that keeps its grandfather status in 2012 while 19% will drop its grandfather status. About one half (49%) did not have any benefit option in grandfather status this year.
- Default Plan for New Hires: More than one fourth (27%) plan to use their least costly health plan for employees as their default plan for new full-time hires as required. Slightly fewer (19%) plan to use the least costly plan for employers as the default plan.
"Employers understand that affordability is tied to employees' premium costs and household incomes so they have two strong arguments for aggressively driving down costs — both theirs and employees. That said, the federal government has to start helping reduce costs too. Like the national debt crisis that we are struggling to solve, we have to solve the health care cost crisis, which is seriously undermining our economy, businesses' abilities to create jobs, working families, our global competitiveness and our standard of living. This is our other national crisis, and they are so intertwined that if we don't reduce costs and medical trend, we will continue to barrel toward insolvency," concluded Darling.