Employers aren't flocking to add high-deductible health plans to their lineup, but many still would like to offer employees a greater ability to evaluate hospitals, doctors and prescription drugs, according to a survey of 150 large companies by PricewaterhouseCoopers Health Research Institute. Only 7% of companies that didn't already offer a high-deductible health plan expected to do so. But almost 70% of all the respondents said they believed that healthcare costs could be lower and quality better if employees had better information for evaluating providers and drugs. Moreover, 71% of respondents said it would be useful for employees to have easy access to accurate lists of the best hospitals, based on volume and outcomes, for specific procedures or conditions. And 77% said that same kind of information would be useful regarding doctors.
Even if high-deductible plans don't take off in popularity, some of the tools that make them possible may be applied to traditional health plans, said Barry Barnett, principal in PricewaterhouseCoopers' Global Human Resource Solutions division. Survey respondents also expected healthcare costs per employee to rise 11.1% on average over the next 12 months, after a 12% climb the previous year. -- by Paul Barr