CDHPs Climb Ranks of Health Benefits

October 9, 2013 ( - In an effort to rein in health care costs and encourage employees to take greater responsibility for their health, a growing number of employers offer or plan to offer consumer-driven health plans (CDHPs) to employees, research shows.

Aon Hewitt found CDHPs have become the second most prevalent plan offered by employers after preferred provider organizations (PPOs), and could potentially surpass PPOs as the most common plan type offered in the next three to five years.

According to Aon Hewitt’s 2013 Health Care Survey of nearly 800 large and mid-size U.S. employers covering more than 7 million employees, 56% of employers currently offer CDHPs as a plan choice, and another 30% are considering offering one in the next three to five years. While 10% of employers offer CDHPs as the only plan option, another 44% are considering doing so in the next three to five years.

In 2012, employers reported at least a two percentage point lower cost trend for CDHP plans (4%) versus other plans, including PPOs (6%), HMOs (7%) and Exclusive Provider Networks (6%).

”With many of the operational details of health care reform yet to be implemented, employers are confronting the realities of compliance and the significant challenges they face in controlling future health care costs,” said Maureen Fay, senior vice president at Aon Hewitt. “Employers are increasingly embracing plan designs that are cost-effective, promote consumer choice and accountability, and encourage employees to be more deliberate in how they spend their health care dollars.”

To encourage employee enrollment in CDHPs, employers are using a variety of tactics, the survey found, including subsidizing premiums at a higher level than they do for other plan options (44%), making the high-deductible plan the default plan option (22%) and covering preventive medicines before the deductible applies (44%).

A growing number of employers are also considering offering elective benefits that reduce consumers’ short-term fears that they will not be able to afford a catastrophic illness in the long-term if they have a plan with a high deductible. While just 9% offer elective benefits in conjunction with a CDHP today, another 44% of employers are considering adding this type of coverage in the next three to five years.

Aon Hewitt said recent research from the company shows more than three-quarters of consumers currently enrolled in a CDHP are satisfied with their plan choice (78%) and 89% said they plan to re-enroll. Of those employees who had been in a CDHP for more than two years, 97% plan to re-enroll.

In addition, the research found a correlation between participation in a CDHP and making more informed health decisions. Sixty percent of employees who were enrolled in CDHPs said they made positive behavior changes related to their health. Twenty-eight percent said they received routine preventative care more often, 23% sought lower-cost health care options, and 19% researched health costs more frequently.