Employers Plan Big Changes for Employee Medical Plans for Next Year

October 7, 2009

As employees flip through their open enrollment packets, they may notice substantial changes to their medical plan for 2010, from increases in employee contributions to a new wellness program.

According to the 2009 Benefits & Talent Survey by Aon Consulting, 41 percent of employers are expecting to make more substantial changes to their 2010 medical program than they did this year.

Aon Consulting, which surveyed 1,313 employers nationwide, found that 70 percent are planning to increase employee contributions and 67 percent are expecting to raise deductibles, co-pays, coinsurance or out-of-pocket maximums.

In addition, more than half of employers are expecting to introduce or expand a wellness program next year, and 34 percent are planning to introduce or increase financial incentives for wellness programs in 2010.

“As in year’s past, many employers are expecting to shift additional health care costs to employees in 2010 to share the burden of double-digit rate increases,” said John Zern, U.S. Health & Benefits Practice Director with Aon Consulting. “However, it may be more dramatic next year, as many organizations try to avoid taking other drastic measures such as layoffs or salary freezes.”

Conversely, Zern said, the good news is that more than half of employers are planning to either introduce or expand wellness programs.

Short-term Solutions
Employers have been implementing various types of audits as a short-term savings solution and the survey says more will follow suit. The survey found that 46 percent of organizations conducted a dependent eligibility verification audit in 2009 or earlier, and 20 percent are planning to do so in 2010 or later. These audits are designed to save on health care costs by ensuring only eligible dependents are covered.

“Employers who conduct dependent eligibility audits can see immediate savings ranging from 3 percent to 10 percent in dependent health care costs,” said Tom Lerche, U.S. Health Care Practice Leader with Aon Consulting.

Other audits employers are planning to implement in 2010 or later include electronic prescription drug (16 percent of employers); medical claims (13 percent of employers); and prescription rebate (12 percent of employers).

Long-Term Solutions
Employers taking are also offering wellness and disease management initiatives to help improve the health care cost trend in the long-term. The survey found 67 percent of employers have promoted exercise/physical activity in 2009 or earlier, and another 12 percent are planning to implement this initiative in 2010 or later.

Additionally, 63 percent of respondents offer disease management programs and 10 percent plan to do so in 2010 or later.

A successful wellness and disease management program depends on participation, and one way to motivate employees to sign-up is by offering incentives, according to Paul Berger, chief medical officer with Aon Consulting. The survey found 41 percent of employers offer a gift card or merchandise as an incentive, and of those organizations that offer at least one incentive, 39 percent offer between $50 and $249 as the maximum value an employee can earn in one year.

Source: Aon Consulting’s Health & Benefits Practice

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