New York Times Examines Methods Employers Use To Shift Health Care Costs to Employees
The New York Times looks at the methods some employers are using to shift health care costs and responsibility to employees, a trend that is likely to continue in 2003 and result in fewer health care choices. According to a study conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation, employer-paid premium costs increased 12.7% in 2002, to approximately $7,954 per family, the Times reports. A survey by Towers Perrin released last week found that employer health plan costs would rise 15% in 2003. To offset costs, employers are exploring several options that require employees to contribute more toward their health care. Some employers are "scaling back" the number of HMO choices they offer; this year, 61% of employees had a choice of more than one HMO, down from 81% in 1998, according to the KFF survey. Many large employers are offering disease management programs, designed to control costs by educating employees with chronic conditions about their health and how to avoid hospitalization; a study by Johnson & Johnson found that, between 1995 and 1999, employers saved $8.5 million a year through wellness programs, the Times reports. In addition, some employers are expanding "tiered pricing" -- generally used for prescription drug copayments -- to doctor and hospital visits. Wendy Rhodes, a consultant at benefits consulting firm Hewitt Associates, said, "Health care costs have gotten totally out of control and it's become clear that employers have to be even more active in sharing the burden with employees. Employees will have to face the music" (Kobliner, New York Times, 10/6).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.