Health Benefit Changes and Increased Costs Call for More Attention from Workers

September 30, 2010 ( - Some changes employees will see — including cost increases, changes to dependent coverage requirements, and stricter federal rules around flexible spending account (FSA) reimbursements — will make it more important than ever for workers to take an active role in choosing their health benefits this enrollment season.

According to Hewitt Associates, an increasing number of workers seem to understand this as nearly half (45%) of employees actively chose their benefits for 2010 instead of defaulting into the coverage they had in the previous year — the highest number of active enrollees since Hewitt began tracking the data in 2003.  

Employers can help employees by encouraging them to: 

  • Assess their needs before selecting a benefit plan or determining how much to put aside in a flexible spending account; 
  • Read the plan rules and pay attention to changes; 
  • Take advantage of FSAs and wellness programs; and 
  • Review quality data of providers. 


In a news release, Hewitt pointed out a few changes will affect workers in the next plan year:  

  • Most U.S. workers will be able to cover their adult children up to age 26; 
  • Over-the-counter medications, such as aspirin, pain relievers and allergy medications, will no longer be reimbursable from an FSA unless employees have a prescription from a doctor; and 
  • For health plans that are new or for existing plans that are not “grandfathered,” preventive care (e.g., immunizations and certain check-ups and recommended screenings) will be 100% covered.  


Hewitt’s previously reported that overall health care costs are expected to rise 8.8% in 2011, from $9,028 per employee in 2010 to $9,821 per employee in 2011, and workers will be expected to contribute 22.5% of the total health care premium – up from 21.8% in 2010 (see 2011 Health Cost Hikes Highest in Five Years).