Employers expect average healthcare cost increases of 14% next year but can afford to absorb only a 9% increase, according to a new survey by Hewitt Associates, Lincolnshire, Ill. As a result, employee contributions will average 23% of healthcare costs in 2004, up from 21% this year. The survey of 650 large employers also found that companies are increasingly turning to consumer-driven health plans as a way to reduce costs. Some 13% of respondents said next year they expect to offer a customized design plan in which employees set their own benefit and contribution levels. Some 83% of respondents said they were either somewhat comfortable or extremely comfortable with employees' ability to select health plans, and 82% said they were at least somewhat comfortable with employees' ability to determine their own benefit coverage levels. -- by Laura B. Benko
Health costs to rise again, along with employees' share: survey
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