Benefits

PwC Predicts Historically Low Growth in Healthcare Spending

By Rebecca Moore editors@plansponsor.com | May 31, 2012
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May 31, 2012 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - Healthcare spending in the United States is expected to grow at a historically low rate of 7.5% next year.

According to the annual Behind the Numbers report, published by the Health Research Institute (HRI) of PwC US, medical cost trends help insurers and large employers set premium rates for the following year. For U.S. employers, the net impact of next year’s increase could be as low as 5.5%, after accounting for changes in benefit design by purchasers, HRI estimates.    

Employers are focused on two primary strategies to control medical costs in 2013:  increasing the employee share of costs and expanding health and wellness programs, according to the PwC 2012 Health and Well-Being Touchstone Survey of 1,400 employers in 34 industries.  The survey also showed that plan design features with the most significant changes in 2012 were a considerable increase in in-network deductibles, emergency room co-payments and prescription drug co-payments.    

Highlights include: 

  • Nearly six in ten employers (57%) are considering increasing employee contributions to health plans; 
  • Half of employers are considering increasing cost-sharing through plan design, such as higher deductibles; 
  • More than half of employers are considering raising employee prescription drug plan costs; 
  • Average enrollment in high-deductible plans coupled with a health reimbursement account has increased to 43.2% in 2012 from 34.2% in 2010; and 
  • Nearly three quarters of employers (72%) offer wellness programs, and half of those say they are considering expanding those programs next year.