Survey: Health Plan Cost Hikes Above 20% in 2003

October 8, 2003 ( - Nearly a quarter of companies participating in a new survey got slapped with a hike in their health-care plan costs of more than 20% this year, while six out of 10 companies had to cope with at least a 13%-cost increase.

The survey, conducted by Wells Fargo companies Bryan, Pendleton, Swats & McAllister (BPS&M) and Acordia Inc., found that the average cost per employee for single coverage within a Preferred Provider Organization (PPO), is $3,750 per year.

Full family PPO coverage cost averages approximately $9,900 per year. Some 23% of respondents said they pay the full cost of employee-only health care for PPO plans, and 7% pay the entire cost of full-family coverage. When the cost is shared, employees typically pay only 23% of the true cost for a health care plan, according to the survey.

The poll reconfirmed that fact that PPO plans generally are the most popular of workplace health coverage programs; when a PPO is offered, the majority of eligible participants select it. Slightly less than one-third of the respondents offer multiple health plan options, but 80% offer a PPO as either the sole plan or the primary plan offered to their employees.

Coming in a distant second on the popularity scale are health maintenance organization (HMOs) with only 35% of employers offering some form of HMO health plan.

The survey found that 50% of employer respondents offer a fully insured health-care plan. The percentage of self-insured plans increases with employer size; most employers that self-insure use reinsurance strategies or a combination of insurance and self-insurance strategies.

As have numerous other similar polls gauging the workplace health-coverage landscape, the Wells Fargo survey found that employers aren’t suffering in silence when it comes to coping with cost increases. Some 80% of employers are considering sharing the additional costs with employees, with roughly a third of the respondents expecting to increase the amount employees pay for coverage for themselves and their dependents by at least 10%. The majority of respondents planned to increase cost sharing by raising deductibles, co-pays, co-insurance and out-of-pocket maximums.

As have other studies, the Wells Fargo project found that employers are focusing a lot of their cost-control efforts on rising prescription drug costs. Most employers already promote generic or lower-cost brand substitutions for name brand medicines and a mail-order program for maintenance drugs. Meanwhile, some 31% of employers expect to increase their prescription drug co-pay by at least 10% in the coming year.

Trends in Employer Sponsored Health Benefits 2003 Survey is the ninth in a series of annual surveys on employee benefits conducted by BPS&M. Approximately 91% of respondents are private employers. More than 432,000 benefit-eligible employees are represented in the study, with mid-size employers (101 to 1,500 employees) constituting 62% of total respondents.

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