Regulations making insurance easier to understand; Survey finds businesses expect big increase in health costs next year

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Yesterday HHS released long-awaited proposed rules for the Summary of Benefits and Coverage to be given to every consumer by March 23, 2012. The Summary is a brief document, explaining in simple, consistent language basic information about each health plan offering including what is and isn’t covered, consumer costs and how they are broken out (copays, deductibles, etc.), and the rules for out of network providers. Every insurer and employer offering coverage will have to provide the same forms and the Summary will include a standardized comparison tool allowing consumers to clearly compare options. The Summary will be accompanied by a Glossary of Terms and was tested with consumers to ensure it is understandable. The proposal was developed by the National Association of Insurance Commissioners and a working group of stakeholders.

A survey by the National Business Group on Health finds that large American employers expect health benefit costs to rise 7.2% next year and most plan to shift those costs onto workers. While that increase is lower than the 7.4% increase in health costs this year, it is still twice the rate of overall inflation. Cost shift plans including increasing employee share of premium (53%), increased deductibles (39%), increased out of network deductibles (23%), and increased out of pocket maximums (22%). 73% expect to offer at least one consumer-directed health plan option, up from 61% this year. The survey found that national health reform is having little impact on most employers’ plans for next year.

Ellen Andrews