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Survey: Employers Expect 7 Percent Growth In Cost Of Health Benefits

As employers brace to absorb cost increases in employee health benefits, many are also experimenting with new ways to control these expenses, according to a new survey from the National Business Group on Health, a non-profit association of 342 large employers.

The survey’s findings, which were released today, are based on the responses of 82 large employers out of a universe of about 250.

Survey respondents — employers with between 5,000 and 100,000 employees —  on average are budgeting for a 7 percent increase in the cost of health benefits in 2013 — the same as 2012, but lower than the growth of costs in the previous three years. NBGH’s president and CEO Helen Darling said that although cost growth is slowing, the costs increases “are still on a higher base from last year and are simply not sustainable.”

As a result, the trend of shifting costs to employees will likely continue. For instance, 60 percent of respondents said they plan to increase employee contributions to insurance premiums.  Other methods of cost-shifting mentioned by employers include higher in-network deductibles (40 percent), and higher out-of-network deductibles (33 percent).

Forty-three percent of respondents said consumer-directed plans are the most effective means employers can use to control health care cost growth. Using wellness programs to encourage employees’ healthy behavior was the second most popular option (19 percent).

The survey was conducted before the Supreme Court June 28 ruling.