Last Updated: November 23, 2009
You know it's been a different sort of year when the cost of employer-sponsored health care plans rise less than 10 percent. According to the National Survey of Employer-Sponsored Health Plans, an annual survey conducted by Mercer, "In a tough year, employers hold the line on health benefit cost increases."
Key findings from the study indicate that:
- Employers held cost growth to 5.5 percent in 2009, the lowest increase in a decade.
- Growth in use of wellness or health management programs accelerates as large employers look to hold down cost without cost-shifting.
- Small employers added consumer-directed health plans in 2009, helping to push up enrollment in these high-deductible plans to 9 percent of all covered employees.
- More than two-fifths of employers that don't offer coverage say they would be likely to do so if health reform mandates that all individuals obtain coverage.
So what should you do given those trends? "Consumers need to take responsibility for their own health care costs," said FPA member Sonya Wright, CFP®, CEBS. Some measures you can take include:
- Asking your physician whether a generic equivalent exists for your prescription.
- Limiting use of the emergency room for actual emergencies.
- Being mindful of unnecessary trips to the doctor's office.
- Making healthy diet and exercise changes in your lifestyle.
"In many cases, employers have shouldered the bulk of the premium to the extent that many employees, until recent years, were not aware of the actual expense of their coverage," said Wright. "The result is sticker shock now that employers are forced to take measures to share costs more equitably."