Mercer Consulting, a leading healthcare consulting firm, has issued the preliminary findings of its annual ‘National Survey of Employer-Sponsored Health Plans 2007.’ After three years of cost increases of about 6 percent, health plan administrators report that the increase for 2008 will be about 9 percent. However, the respondents plan to take actions to reduce that level to about 6.7 percent, which is still twice the rate of increase for the consumer price index. A majority plan to increase employee premium contributions, and about a third will raise copayments, deductibles and out-of-pocket maximums.
Now is the time to call you insurance agent and find out what the pending rate increase is for 2008. I would tread carefully in raising employee contributions, perhaps sharing the increase with employees. Do let them know at your annual staff meeting what the costs are and how you are handling this. There is evidence that raising co-pays, particularly for drugs, is counter-productive.
If you haven’t done so already, you should have a sec. 125 plan, or ‘cafeteria plan,” so that the employee contributions are tax free. This means that the practice saves on the employment taxes as well.
In addition to shopping your plan (always a good idea), you should discuss with your broker whether investing in wellness and preventive services could affect your premiums down the road. Weight loss is primary, as could be negotiating discounts at a health club, tied to a payroll deduction. You can see about a Weight Watchers meeting to be held in your office — involving patients, staff, and neighboring businesses. Hosting such a meeting can help your patients and staff (although staff might prefer privacy), as well as a marketing tool to patients and your business neighbors.
The short story is this: businesses don’t have a lot of options when it comes to controlling costs. It’s a big number, but shifting it to employees will be viewed as a pay cut. It’s a cunumdrum, as they say.
Anyone with any ideas?