Employee Benefit Plans Survey Yields Conflicting Answers

May 13, 2009
Special Feature

A recent survey presents a mixed picture of what’s happening in the healthcare benefits arena. The one consistent result is that both employees and employers are reacting to the current economic problems, although in different ways.

A recent survey by the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans presents a mixed picture of what’s happening in the healthcare benefits arena. The one consistent result is that both employees and employers are reacting to the current economic problems, although in different ways.

According to the survey, 35% of employers are countering the rise in the cost of healthcare coverage by boosting deductibles, coinsurance and copays for their employees. About the same number are increasing their employees’ share of health insurance premiums. Another 18% are auditing dependent eligibility as a result of an increase in the number of dependents added to healthcare coverage. About one-quarter of the plans responding to the survey reported that more employees are adding dependents.

Employees on the other hand are reacting in different ways. Some, anticipating increased cost-sharing and possible layoffs, are racing to use health benefits before any cost increases or before they lose them. About 33% of employer health plans saw an increase in the number of plan participants filing claims for costly medical procedures or prescription drugs. There’s another side to this picture, however. The survey also reported that many employees are struggling with higher costs and are delaying medical care or holding off filling drug prescriptions.