Rising costs lead to employee benefit changes


A large majority of employers (74 percent) said their insurance expenses have increased this year, making healthcare costs a top priority for their businesses. That means some companies likely will change how they provide insurance benefits, according to a survey from insurance broker Willis Group Holdings.

"Employers noted that they still feel that it is important to continue to offer benefits to their employees, although their distribution and delivery methods may change," the survey states.

For example, employers could drop coverage for employees' spouses. The survey found 12 percent of more than 1,000 participating companies said they already have added a surcharge or eliminated coverage to spouses if they can receive benefits from their own employers. And 3 percent said they plan to implement similar steps between 2015 and 2018, while 20 percent will likely make those changes but don't have a timeline in place.

Another trend gaining traction is the use of private exchanges. The survey found 20 percent of employers are considering sending workers to buy coverage through private exchanges, and 8 percent already have strategies in development.

Private exchanges got a big boost in interest when IBM and Time Warner both said they were moving some retirees to private marketplaces where they can shop for individual coverage, FierceHealthPayer previously reported.

But while employers are considering ways to amend their coverage offerings, very few are thinking about dropping their health benefits altogether. More than 60 percent of respondents said "moving away from benefit engagement" was extremely unlikely and 17 percent said it was somewhat unlikely.

"Employers view their medical benefits as an important and desirable part of their compensation offerings and they will take steps to manage costs so that they can continue to offer benefits to their employers," states the survey.

To learn more:
- here's the survey

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