U.S. employers keeping healthcare benefit

March 9, 2012 at 8:03 PM
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NEW YORK, March 9 (UPI) -- U.S. employers that offer healthcare to employees say they will focus through 2015 on "quality and efficiency of care," a survey found.

The annual Towers Watson/National Business Group on Health Employer Survey on Purchasing Value in Health Care questioned 512 employers from December 2011 to January 2012. The survey found average total healthcare costs per employee are expected to reach $11,664 in 2012, up from $10,982 in 2011.

Respondents collectively employed 9.2 million full-time employees, have 8 million employees enrolled in their healthcare programs and operate in all major industry sectors.

Overall, the respondents maintained cost increases at or below the Towers Watson/National Business Group on Health median for the past four years.

"To help hold the line on costs, employers are also working with their health plan vendors and altering plan designs to improve the quality and efficiency of care received by members," the report said. "Employees' share of premium costs increased 9.3 percent between 2011 and 2012, with the dollar burden rising from $2,529 to $2,764. In fact, employees contribute nearly 40 percent more for healthcare than they did five years ago, compared with 34 percent for employers."

Out-of-pocket expenses increased during the last year to 18 percent, up from 16 percent, the survey found. The increase is partly due to subsidy shifts for dependents -- nearly half of companies increased employee contributions in tiers with dependent coverage and one-quarter of companies are using spousal surcharges, and another 13 percent said they were planning to do so next year, the report said.

No further details of the survey were reported.

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