SURVEY SAYS: Health Benefits Changes

May 19, 2014 (PLANSPONSOR.com) – We often report about changes plan sponsors are making to their health benefits offerings.

While, you may be involved in helping your company make those decisions, you’re an employee affected by those decisions too. Last week, I asked NewsDash readers how they, as employees, have been affected by changes to health benefits.

Nearly three-quarters (73.5%) of NewsDash readers who responded are, or work for, plan sponsors. Twelve percent are advisers/consultants, 8.2% work for a TPA/recordkeeper/investment manager, 2% are certified public accountants (CPAs), and 4.1% are attorneys.

More than three-quarters (76.5%) of respondents indicated that in the last two years, their portion of health benefits premiums have increased, but 7.8% said their premiums are lower. Forty-seven percent of responding readers have higher copays, and 70.6% have higher deductibles.

Nearly one-quarter of responding readers indicated they’ve had to choose a new plan type (HMO, PPO, high deductible plan with an HSA, etc.) because their employers dropped the one they were in, while 13.7% said they were able to choose a new plan type because their employers added one to its health benefits offering. Nearly 4% reported they had to get coverage with their own employers because their spouses’/partners’ employer stopped covering spouses/partners. Nearly 16% were able to add young adult children/dependents to their or their spouses’/partners’ coverage. 

 

Nearly one-quarter (23.5%) now have programs or incentives to improve their health through wellness programs their employers started, while 3.9% lost those programs or incentives because their employers dropped wellness programs.

Nearly 14% of respondents chose “other,” which included increases to other out-of-pocket health care costs, addition of flexible savings accounts (FSAs) to help pay for out-of-pocket costs, the ability to add same-gender spouse/partner to coverage, and changes to eligibility (a higher age) for post-retirement health care benefits.

Nearly 4% indicated they have not been affected in any way because their employers have made no changes to health benefits. The following effects from benefit changes were not selected by any respondents: My copays are lower; My deductible is lower; My employer stopped providing health benefits; My employer began providing health benefits; and Was able to get coverage with my spouse’s/partner’s employer because it now covers spouses/partners.

Asked what factors influenced the changes their employers made, 62% selected health care reform legislation, while 76% indicated it was just ordinary increases in health care costs. Twenty-six percent said the economy’s effect on the business influenced health benefit changes, 12% said it was decisions made by other, similar employers, and 10% reported it was a desire to attract/retain employees. Ten percent indicated they do not know what factors influenced the decisions.

Eight percent of respondents chose “other” factors, which included: desire to reduce anything spent on employees, cost reductions, and a “dispute between major health systems and the need to add a new carrier that maintained contracts with both systems.”

In verbatim comments, it is obvious many are feeling burned by changes to their health care benefits; readers shared the size of cost increases, and some other benefits changes, such as tiered premiums and loss of dental or vision benefits. But there are some who reported being “lucky” and having “generous” benefits. Editor’s Choice goes to the reader who said: “As a "Boomer" I can recall when medical insurance was for catastrophic circumstances only and you paid your physician/pharmacist out of your pocket - even with chickens and produce (and we walked 5 miles up hill to do so). Point being it's beginning to look like deja vu all over again.”

Thanks to everyone who participated in our survey!

Verbatim

I don't feel like a well-protected patient or like I'm receiving affordable care! Wasn't that the intended purpose?

I am tired of President Obama being used as a scapegoat when changes are made.

Even providers have been telling our people for 3-5 years now that their insurance stinks!! No one can believe our co-pays among other things.

I liked my plan, but I didn't get to keep my plan!

We've been lucky with no changes in the past two years and slight increases in premiums.

Can I get health care benefits for just being sick of my job?!?! It's been one of those days!!

Tiered premiums by salary range - higher compensated employee pay higher premiums. I understand that to a point, but 2 years of no premium increases for lower paid employees gives them NO incentive to improve their health or make better healthcare spending decisions.

My employer plan was already so generous that we felt very little impact from ACA. They may consider moving to the exchanges in the future, but have not made any decisions yet (no changes for 2015).

Saw a 17% increase on renewal for 2014 because of ACA. Employer elected to absorb $500K of the increase for a 500 employee company but that wiped out any raise for 2014.

It is disheartening that our new health insurance provider does not deem my son's necessary eye physical therapy as necessary.

Verbatim (cont.)

I was ready to change due to provider having too many problems with billing and enrollments. As far as benefits, about the same with a few things better, such as lower out of pocket expense.

Maximum out of pocket costs to participants has more than tripled over a ten year period while premiums to my employer continue to rise 2 or 3 times the rate of inflation. My employer has eliminated dental and vision coverage in order to continue 'minimum essential coverage' medical insurance

Biggest concern or fear is narrowing of networks and reduction of covered services. Patient ability to manage costs is a farce and a fraud.

We used to have flexibility. We could decide how to pay. In other words, we could pay a higher premium in exchange for lower or no deductible and/or coinsurance. The Health Insurance Company Villification Act (also known as Obamacare) made changes that affect levels of deductible and coinsurance that are allowed. Even though the coverage is the same, and the total cost is the same HICVA takes away our freedom on the way we personally want to pay for our own insurance. Personally, I can't stand deductibles, and would rather not pay up front (in the form of a deductible) and would rather pay over time (in the form of a higher premium). Of course lawmakers are clueless. The government steps in, and we lose freedom of choice.

Changes in our health benefits are having the intended effect of changing utilization behavior by shifting more of the cost to employees.

We are a small employer with a past good experience rating with our medical carrier. With the ACA changes our premium will be increased by about 50% at next year's renewal. Not at all good for us!!

We tend to lag behind other employers in making decisions regarding our benefits. We watch and learn from their successes and failures, and then develop programs that we believe will best serve our nationwide employee population.

I've seen some interesting changes over the past two years, and expect to see more as legislation unfolds.

Being over 60, my premiums increased 250%!

As a "Boomer" I can recall when medical insurance was for catastrophic circumstances only and you paid your physician/pharmacist out of your pocket - even with chickens and produce (and we walked 5 miles up hill to do so). Point being it's beginning to look like deja vu all over again.

 

NOTE: Responses reflect the opinions of individual readers and not necessarily the stance of Asset International or its affiliates.

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