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Large employers say health care plan costs will rise 7.2% in 2012: NBGH survey


Large employers estimate that the cost of their group health care plans will rise an average of 7.2% in 2012, comparable to the 7.4% rise they expect this year, according to a survey released Thursday.

Costs continue to far outpace general inflation for several reasons, including the ability of medical providers to regularly boost charges, the introduction of expensive new services and drugs, and duplicative and excessive care, said Helen Darling, president of the Washington-based National Business Group on Health.

In addition, Ms. Darling said, the health care reform law also is boosting costs, as employers have had to amend their plans to meet such requirements as eliminating lifetime dollar limits and extending coverage to employees’ adult children up to age 26.

“Direct costs due to health reform law implementation represent a full one to two percentage points in 2011 and perhaps the same in 2012,” she said.

Employees to absorb more costs

As they have done for many years, employers say they will continue to shift more costs to employees. For example, 53% of respondents said that in 2012 they will boost the percentage of the plan premium paid by employees.

In addition, 39% said they will boost in-network deductibles, while 33% said they will increase out-of-network deductibles and 32% will increase out-of-pocket maximums.

In addition, the survey found that 73% of employers in 2012 will offer employees a consumer-driven health care plan, typically a high-deductible plan linked to a savings account, up from 61% this year. CDHPs, because of their high-deductible feature, cost less than traditional plans.

The summary is based on the responses of 83 employers, of which 82% had more than 10,000 employees.