Employers Cover Alternative Health Care to Contain Costs

January 9, 2008 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - New research from the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans (IFEBP) has found medical tourism, where an individual travels to another country to seek medical care, is covered by 11% of surveyed organizations.

In addition, according to an IFEBP press release, most respondents (80.5%) cover chiropractic care expenses and one-third (33.5%) cover acupuncture or acupressure.

“Due to the rising costs of health care benefits, employers are challenged to find a balance between cost-effective care and the level of benefits needed to successfully recruit and retain valuable workers,” said Julie Stich, Senior Information/Research Specialist at the IFEBP, in the announcement.

Other key survey findings included:

  • Almost all (99.7%) of survey respondents (corporations, public employers, and professional service firms) offer health care benefits to full-time employees and 49.9% cover part-time employees.
  • Nearly all (99%) responding organizations cover adopted and biological children, while 74% cover stepchildren and 42% cover foster children.
  • A large majority (92%) of organizations cover opposite-sex spouses; 37.5% cover same-sex, unmarried domestic partners; 30% cover opposite-sex, unmarried domestic partners; and 28.8% cover same-sex spouses.

The survey asked respondents about covered health care services, diagnostic tests, health care benefit exclusions, and additional coverage areas including inpatient and outpatient mental health services, annual physical exams, prenatal care, adult flu vaccinations, weight control surgery, smoking cessation programs, laser vision-correction procedures, organ transplants, and health coaching.

The IFEBP report, “Health Care Benefits: Eligibility, Coverage and Exclusions,” contains 22 sample health care policies and summary plan descriptions. The survey reflects responses from 400 U.S. corporate benefit managers, professional service providers, public employers, and multiemployer plans.

The cost of the survey report is $131 (I.F. Members $52), and it can be ordered online at www.ifebp.org/books.asp?6412 or by calling (888) 334-3327, option 4. Item #6412.