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Hewitt’s annual survey of large US employers estimates health costs to be $9,821 per worker in 2011, up from $9,028 this year. While total costs are expected to rise 8.8%, workers’ share of that bill will rise 12.4%, continuing a trend of shifting more costs onto consumers. From 2001 to 2011, while total premiums will have doubled, consumers’ share of costs will have tripled. Hewitt blames higher medical costs – both increasing prices and higher utilization by a slightly older workforce due to layoffs – and national health reforms. Hewitt estimates that immediate reforms, such as removing annual and lifetime caps on claims and allowing children to stay on their parents’ polices until age 26, contributed 1 to 2% to the increase. The report acknowledges that national reform also provides new opportunities to reduce long term cost trends, but that the impact of those measures won’t be realized next year. To keep down their costs employers plan to raise employee cost sharing (increasing co-insurance and deductibles), changing how they subsidize dependent coverage and monitoring eligibility, holding venders accountable, and expand disease management and wellness programs. A growing number of employers plan to use penalties such as higher premiums and cost sharing to encourage workers to enroll in health improvement programs.
Ellen Andrews