Health Care Costs Hold Steady as Top Benefits Concern for Companies

June 26, 2006 ( - The findings on health care benefits from the Society for Human Resource Management's 2006 Benefits survey show employers continue to pass costs on to employees.

Sixty-six percent of employers increased co-pays and/or co-insurance costs in 2006; 59% increased participant costs; 56% increased deductibles and 55% increased the amount plan participants pay for prescription drugs, according to the recent survey of HR professionals.

The survey found that 90% of HR professionals said the most commonly offered health care benefit is prescription drug coverage.

In addition, nearly all of the HR professionals surveyed offered at least one of these health care insurance benefits: preferred provider organization (PPO) plans, health insurance maintenance (HMO) plans, employer-funded health care reimbursement accounts, consumer-directed health care, indemnity plans and exclusive provider organization (EPO) plans.

The split among the different plans fall as follows:

  • 87% offered a PPO plan, which includes a network of health care providers that patients must use or otherwise pay more for services from outside providers;
  • 51% offered an HMO plan, which requires participants to choose a primary care physician from their network who would coordinate all of the patients’ care;
  • 15% offer indemnity, or fee-for-service, plans;
  • 17% offer consumer-directed plans; and
  • 18% offer employer-funded health reimbursement accounts, in which the employer makes contributions for the employee to use for health care services.

Also, 39% of HR professionals said their organizations offered health care insurance to part-time employees.

Although dental and vision insurance are typically not covered under standard health care offerings, 93% said their organizations offered dental insurance and 73% offered vision insurance.

Among the other types of insurance offered include:

  • 81%, chiropractic coverage
  • 73%, mental health insurance
  • 50%, supplemental health accident insurance
  • 43%, long-term care insurance
  • 39%, intensive care insurance
  • 39%, critical illness insurance
  • 36%, cancer insurance
  • 29%, hospital indemnity insurance

Benefits offerings mostly remained the same in 2006 from 2005, with minor fluctuations:

  • Vaccination on site increased from 56 to 65%.
  • Domestic benefits for same-sex partners increased slightly to 33 from 32%.
  • Vision insurance decreased from 80 to 73%.
  • Fitness center membership subsidy/reimbursement increased from 31 to 37%.
  • Weight loss program increased from 25 to 29%.
  • Organizations offering paid family leave increased from 30 to 32%.
  • Emergency/sick childcare increased from 6 to 14%.

The 2006 Benefits survey can be viewed by members on SHRM’s Web site at .