Tri-state companies will shift health costs to workers

    Employers around the tri-state area say they plan to hold down health care costs by asking workers to shoulder more of the burden.

    Employers around the tri-state area say they plan to hold down health care costs by asking workers to shoulder more of the burden.

    Listen: [audio:100112tehealth.mp3]

    The national survey included responses from 45 large companies across the greater Philadelphia, Southern New Jersey and Delaware region. Thirty-seven percent of the local employers said this year they plan to raise deductibles, co-payments or other fees that workers pay out of pocket.

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    Sam Marshall is president of the Pennsylvania Insurance Federation. He says rising health benefit costs are pushing employers to make workers “partners in payment.”

    Marshall: Employees will be increasingly responsible for paying a sizable portion of their own health insurance premiums and their own health care costs.

    According to the survey, health benefit costs increased more steeply in Pennsylvania compared to the national average. Sam Marshall says Pennsylvania has added several insurance mandates which may be driving up prices in the state. Among the changes, Pennsylvania now requires companies to cover the cost of testing and treatment for children with autism.

    One hundred twenty-six Pennsylvania-based companies responded to the survey. In 2009, the per-employee cost of health benefits rose 7.2 percent in the Commonwealth. The national average was a 5.5 percent growth, the survey found.

    Consulting and investment services company Mercer conducted the survey.

    Jennifer Calhoun Mohl with Mercer analyzed the data. She says companies will also try to hold down health costs by enrolling workers in company wellness programs.

    Calhoun: Many employers are trying to identify and help employees identify how healthy they are in basic things like tobacco use or heart issues and trying to team them up with coaches or other programs that they can take advantage of, often at free charge to the employee or their members.

    It’s not clear why benefit cost are rising faster in Pennsylvania. But Calhoun says in the survey the average age of Pennsylvania workers was 43, slightly higher than the national norm. Older workers use more health services, she notes.

    In the survey, 37 percent of the employers from the tri-state region said they plan to raise out-of-pocket costs for workers in 2010.

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