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The nation’s employers can expect medical costs to increase by 9 percent in 2011, a decrease of 0.5% from the 2010 growth rate, according to the annual Behind the Numbers report published June 14 by the PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP (PwC) Health Research Institute. For the first time, the majority of the American workforce is expected to have a health insurance deductible of $400 or more, as more employers return to “indemnity style” cost-sharing by raising out-of-pocket limits, replacing co-pays with co-insurance and adding high-deductible health plans.
The Behind the Numbers report includes findings of the PricewaterhouseCoopers’ Health and Well-Being Touchstone Survey of more than 700 employers from 30 industries, as well as interviews with health plan actuaries and other executives whose companies provide health insurance for 47 million American workers and their families.
Improving wellness programs and increased cost-sharing lead the planned changes employers will make in the benefit plan designs they will offer for next year. According to PricewaterhouseCoopers’ Touchstone research:
In 2011, the Behind the Numbers report outlines three primary deflators that will help employers hold down medical costs:
The biggest inflators of the medical trend in 2011 will be in hospital and physician costs, which make up 81% of premium costs.
“For more than 50 years, US employers have used health benefits as a critical part of their compensation package to recruit and retain workers,” said Michael Thompson, principal, Human Resource Services, PricewaterhouseCoopers. “The value of these benefits is becoming an even more visible part of overall compensation as medical costs grow, and, by 2014, health insurance benefits will shift from being a voluntary benefit to an individual mandate, enforced by new tax levies. Companies are now working with their health plan providers for new post-recession, post-health reform strategies to sustain their programs and promote health and well-being as their next competitive advantage.”
Each year, PricewaterhouseCoopers’ Health Research Institute provides estimates on growth of private medical costs over the next year and what the leading drivers of the trend are expected to be. Insurance companies use medical cost trends to help set health plan premiums by estimating what the same health plan this year would cost in the next year. In turn, employers use the information to make adjustments in benefit plan design to help offset any cost increases.
“Health reform delivers only a minor impact on the underlying medical cost trends in 2011 and introduces hundreds of changes in the healthcare system designed to reduce costs and improve efficiencies in the long-term,” said Kelly A. Barnes, US health industries leader at PricewaterhouseCoopers. “These changes could bring significant new cost savings opportunities for employers and payers as well as new choices and transparency for workers buying insurance.”
PricewaterhouseCoopers’ Behind the Numbers report and survey highlights are available at www.pwc.com/us/medicalcosts2011. The full findings of the PricewaterhouseCoopers 2010 Health and Well-being Touchstone survey are available at www.pwc.com/us/touchstone2010.For more on the details on the implications of health reform, go to http://www.pwc.com/healthreform.