Healthy Hikes in Store for Drugs in 2003

August 22, 2002 ( - There's no relief in sight for plan sponsors when it comes to healthcare costs, according to a new report from the Segal Company.

However, plan sponsors may be able to use the preliminary findings from a new health plan cost survey as a bargaining chip in working out a 2003 deal with their own provider – or at leat that was the suggestion from Segal.

What they can expect next year, at least according to Segal’s calculations, are across-the-board double digit increases with a non-network fee-for-service program leading the way carrying a projected 16.3% increase (for plans with drug coverage).

“Negotiate rate renewals with insurance carriers,” Segal researchers advised. “If the plans’ carriers have set trends for 2003 that are significantly higher than the averages in the (Segal) survey, the sponsor may be able to negotiate lower trend rates based on case-specific trend rates and plan design.”

Least expensive among the five health plan types were projections of a 14.4% hike for preferred provider organizations and health maintenance organizations (with both plans including drug coverage).

For prescription drug plans, a program allowing employees to buy medications at regular retail outlets is expected to jump by 19.3% with script plans involving mail order expected to increase by 18.6%.

Corporate benefits departments don’t have to take cost hikes like the ones projected in the latest survey, lying down, Segal said. Researchers suggested:

  • studying medical and drug claims to determine how the services are being used
  • considering changing how much is charged to workers and retirees for the coverage
    setting up a customized or limited medical or drug network.
  • reviewing programs designed to help employees because more cost-conscious consumers.