Employers curb high-deductible plans, even as insurance costs rise

Modern Healthcare
8/7/18

Large employers and their employees will pay more for health coverage in 2019. Despite that, some companies are dialing back their use of high-deductible health plans to control spending.

Employers are projected to pay $14,800 per employee for health coverage in 2019, an increase of 5% from $14,099 this year, according to the National Business Group on Health’s annual employer-sponsored health insurance survey released Tuesday. Per-employee health insurance costs have risen about the same amount each year for half a decade.

“This is consistent with the last five years, but consistent doesn’t mean good. Top line medical trend is still running two times wage increases and three times general inflation, which continues to threaten affordability for all Americans,” the group’s president and CEO, Brian Marcotte, said in a news briefing Tuesday.

Employers pick up about 70% of the tab for health coverage, while their workers pick up 30%, or $4,400, through premium and out-of-pocket expenses, such as copayments or coinsurance. The cost of specialty prescription drugs, high-cost individuals and the cost of treatment for specific diseases, including cancer and musculoskeletal conditions, are driving spending higher.

The survey included 170 employers who provide coverage to more than 19 million employees and their families. Three-quarters of the companies surveyed had over 10,000 employees.

Even though costs are rising, study results suggest employers are starting to back away from using high-deductible health plans paired with health savings accounts as a way control their share of the costs.