Out-of-Pocket Health Care Expenses Rising

By Staff Report

May. 27, 2009

As health care costs continue to rise, employers are boosting deductibles and other out-of-pocket payments made by employees, according to a survey released Tuesday, May 26.

The PricewaterhouseCoopers survey of 694 employers found that 20 percent of respondents this year imposed an in-network deductible of $400 to $999, up from 17 percent last year, while 11 percent imposed a deductible of at least $1,000, up from 8 percent.

At the same time, 14 percent of employers this year required employees to pay at least 34 percent of the premium for dependent coverage, up from 10 percent of employers last year.

Those increases came as respondents reported that group health care plan costs rose an average of 6.1 percent this year, a slightly lower increase than the 6.4 percent rise last year.

Boosting employee cost-sharing is a delicate balancing act, noted Michael Thompson, a PwC principal in New York.

On one hand, employees can become more careful consumers of health care services as more costs are shifted to them. On the other hand, health plan enrollees might delay getting needed medical services if their share is boosted too much, he noted.

The survey also found that while less than 40 percent of employees enroll in employer-provided wellness programs, participation rises when employers offer incentives such as cash or gift cards.

For example, when employers gave employees some type of financial incentive for employees to complete a health risk questionnaire, about 45 percent did so. By contrast, only about 30 percent of employees underwent the assessment among employers that did not provide such incentives.

Copies of the 2009 Health & Well-Being Touchstone Survey will be available at

Filed by Jerry Geisel of Business Insurance, a sister publication of Workforce Management. To comment, e-mail

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