Employers healthcare costs will jump by 8.7% in 2008, ending a period of softened rate increases, according to a study by Hewitt Associates.
This year, employers healthcare costs rose by 5.3% on average, a nine-year low, the leading human resources consulting firm said.
Major companies will spend on average $8,676 per person in 2008, up from $7,982 per person this year, the survey found.
Workers will pay 21% of total premiums next year, or $1,859, up from $1,690 this year. Total out-of-pocket costs for workers will rise by 10% next year, to nearly $3,600, up from $3,266 this year.
Several urban marketsincluding Nashville and San Franciscosaw rate increases in 2007 two to three times the national average, perhaps because of those cities high HMO plan enrollment, which experienced higher cost increases, according to Hewitt.
Employers are being proactive when it comes to keeping their costs down, such as adopting wellness programs, offering consumer-driven health plans and restricting prescription drug coverage, according to the study, which included data from 400 major employers.
Hewitt predicts that health savings accounts, or HSAs will gain traction. More than 20% of employers surveyed offer HSAs or plan to next year. Almost half are considering offering the consumer-driven plans at a later date. Just 3% of employees chose HSAs in 2007, though companies anticipate enrollment will grow to 20% in five years, according to Hewitt.
One way employers have kept rates down is through cost-shifting to workers, but Jim Winkler, practice leader of Hewitts Health Management Consulting, expressed concern that employees are essentially trading preventative care now for rescue care later, which will lead to unhealthy employee populations, a decrease in productivity and ultimately higher healthcare costs. -- by Rebecca Vesely
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