Survey Finds Double-Digit Health Cost Hikes into 2010

June 4, 2009 ( - The outlook for health care cost hikes going into next year has improved since September 2008 - by not by much, according to a new survey.

A Buck Consultants news announcement about its latest survey said costs for the most popular health plans continue to increase by more than 10%, but the rate of increase is slightly lower than the previous poll.

According to Buck’s data, the projected costs hikes (and a comparison with the 2008 survey) include:

  • Preferred Provider Organization (PPO): 11%, down 0.1%
  • Point-of-service (POS): 10.2%, down 0.6%
  • Health Maintenance Organization (HMO): 11%, down 0.1%
  • High Deductible Consumer Driven: 10.4%, down 0.3%

“Although our survey reveals a slight decrease in cost trends since our prior study, there are signs that we’re going into another cycle of high trends,” Harvey Sobel, a Buck principal and consulting actuary who directed the survey, said in the announcement. “Health insurers may increase costs in light of the continuing economic downturn and legislation such as mental health parity and the recent expansion of COBRA. They may also attempt to increase their prices prior to the implementation of national health care reform, including a new ‘public insurance option’.”

According to Buck, health insurers reported an average prescription drug trend of 10.8%, down 0.6% from the 11.4% reported in the prior survey. That is three percentage points higher than the 7.8% reported by pharmacy benefit managers who generally do not take any underwriting risk.

For plans that supplement Medicare, health insurers reported a projected increase of 7.4% excluding prescription drug coverage. This lower trend reflects the impact of federal controls on Medicare fees and the lower increases expected in Medicare deductibles and copays, Buck said.

The survey also reported trend factors for dental and vision plans.

Buck analyzed responses from more than 100 health insurers, HMOs and third-party administrators and then measured the projected average annual increase in employer-provided health care benefit costs. The poll is available for $100 from Buck’s Global Survey Resources, 500 Plaza Drive, Secaucus, NJ, 07096-1533, or by calling 800-887-0509. It also can be ordered online at .