Employers Turn to Cost-Sharing Over Cutting Health Benefits

April 17, 2009 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - A recent survey by the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans (IFEBP) shows employers are increasing health benefit cost-sharing approaches.

An IFEBP press release said survey responses indicate that few plan sponsors (3.6%) are cutting or considering cutting health care benefits altogether, but many are ramping up their cost-sharing approaches. Thirty-five percent of plan sponsors are increasing employee deductibles, coinsurance or copays due to the financial crisis, and nearly the same proportion are increasing employee premiums.

Other cost-sharing actions that plan sponsors are taking, according to the announcement, include adding consumer-driven health plans as an option (12.8%), replacing a current plan with a consumer-driven plan (9.6%) and instituting spousal charges (10.8%).

Eighteen percent of the respondents have introduced or are considering introducing wellness initiatives due to the economy (see Most Employers Investing in Employee Health to Cut Costs ). Also to cut costs, 17.8% of plan sponsors have introduced or are considering dependent eligibility audits (see Employers See Substantial Savings from Dependent Eligibility Audits ).

The survey findings also suggest that plan participants, perhaps fearing an impending layoff, are increasing utilization of their benefits. About one-third of plan sponsors said they have noticed an increase in the number of participants filling prescriptions and engaging in costly medical procedures before their insurance runs out, while 24% of plan sponsors have observed growth in the number of participants adding dependents to their plans.

On the other hand, about one-fifth of survey respondents report plan participants are delaying medical care and skimping on prescription drugs because of financial problems.

The survey of International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans members was conducted March 30-April 6. Respondents include corporate plan sponsors, public/governmental plans, multiemployer benefit funds and others with benefit plans.

“Health Care Plans: Impact of the Financial Crisis” (Item #6696E) is available to IFEBP members free of charge. Nonmembers can purchase the survey for $50. To order visit www.ifebp.org/books.asp?6696E or contact the Foundation Bookstore at bookstore@ifebp.org or (888) 334-3327, option 4.