By-Words for 2010 Health Plans: Cost-Shifting and Wellness Programs

October 7, 2009 ( - Some 41% of employers in an Aon Consulting survey are planning substantial changes to their 2010 medical coverage offerings compared to what they did this year.

class=”gprbodysub-heads” align=”left”> An Aon news release said 70% of respondents are planning to increase employee contributions and 67% are expecting to raise deductibles, co-pays, coinsurance or out-of-pocket maximums. More than half of employers are expecting to introduce or expand a wellness program next year, and 34% are planning to introduce or increase financial incentives for those wellness efforts in 2010

class=”gprbodysub-heads” align=”left”> To reduce employer and employee health care costs, employers have been implementing various types of audits as a short-term savings solution (see Total Benefits: Paring the Rolls ). According to the poll, 46% of organizations conducted a dependent eligibility verification audit in 2009 or earlier, and 20% are planning to do so in 2010 or later.

class=”gprbodysub-heads” align=”left”> “Employers who conduct dependent eligibility audits can see immediate savings ranging from 3% to 10% in dependent health care costs,” said Tom Lerche, U.S. Health Care Practice Leader with Aon Consulting, in the news release. “Achieving savings from removal of ineligible dependents may reduce the need for further employee layoffs and will ensure program integrity.”

class=”gprbodysub-heads” align=”left”> Other audits employers are planning to implement in 2010 or later include electronic prescription drug (16%); medical claims (13%); and prescription rebate (12%).

class=”gprbodysub-heads” align=”left”> Wellness Programs

class=”gprbodysub-heads” align=”left”> Over the long term, employers are also offering wellness and disease management initiatives. The survey found 67% of employers have promoted exercise/physical activity in 2009 or earlier and another 12% are planning to implement this initiative in 2010 or later. Additionally, 63% of respondents offer disease management programs and 10% plan to do so in 2010 or later.

class=”gprbodysub-heads” align=”left”> Tracking the status of health measures also is an important component of any wellness or disease management program. According to the survey, some of those measures employers are tracking include:

  • Medical costs of chronic conditions (45%),
  • Participation in corporate wellness/preventive activities (36%),
  • Participation in corporate disease management programs (32%), and
  • Biometric data (28%).

class=”gprbodysub-heads” align=”left”> In terms of incentives to attract workers to wellness programs,41% of employers offer a gift card or merchandise as an incentive, and of those organizations that offer at least one incentive, 39% offer between $50 and $249 as the maximum value an employee can earn in one year.

class=”gprbodysub-heads” align=”left”> Aon surveyed 1,313 employers nationwide in its latest benefits survey which is available here.

class=”gprbodysub-heads” align=”left”> The poll also found that employers are taking a wait-and-see approach before making immediate changes to their retirement programs (see Employers Put Plan Changes on Hold Pending Economy Change ).