Employees to Witness Changes to Health Benefits

September 27, 2004 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - Consumer-driven health care is on the rise and the use of HMOs is in decline, according to benefits consultants at Watson Wyatt.

This year consumers can expect to see changes in the variability of products available to them through employer-sponsored health benefits, the consulting company said in a press release. The use of consumer-driven health care alternatives – characterized by the combination of tax-free personal health accounts and high-deductible health insurance – is on the rise, and employers are offering fewer HMOs to employees.

The firm also identified six other health-care trends:

  • An increased focus on disease management, with a focus on ailments such as diabetes and heart conditions. Cash incentives or premium discounts may be used to entice workers to utilize this service.
  • Higher costs for both doctor and hospital visits, as well as for prescription drugs.
  • An increased usage of surcharges for spousal coverage may be utilized by employers to control costs.
  • The usage of more voluntary benefits should be on the rise, as employers make them available during enrollment season fro purchase for employees.
  • A greater access to decision-support tools should be apparent, with a focus on self-serve Web sites where participants can compare health costs, determine contribution rates, check the status of claims, find information, create personal health records, and find medical specialists.
  • An increased focus on employer-employee communication, with the intent of increasing employee knowledge of the benefits available to them.

“Faced with rising health costs, employers are making several changes to their benefit programs that employees should anticipate seeing in their enrollment packages,” said Tom Billet, a senior benefits consultant with Watson Wyatt, in the press release. “And, with workers assuming more responsibility for making health care decisions, they’ll need to carefully evaluate their options.”

For more information, please see www.watsonwyatt.com .