Companies are shifting more responsibility for the rising costs of health care to employees, according to a recent study by PricewaterhouseCoopers. More than 40% of the 700 companies surveyed intend to increase employee contributions for health-insurance coverage, while an equivalent number plan to increase medical cost-sharing, including higher deductibles and copayments, at the point of care. Meanwhile, the ranks of those offering health benefits for retirees are shrinking, with a 40% drop among those subsidizing coverage after age 65.
That's a level of cost-sharing that is going to "cause more employees to think about how they use [medical] services," says Michael Thompson, a principal in PwC's human-resource services group.
Average per-patient medical costs are projected to rise 9.5% in 2010 and 9% in 2011, according to separate research from PwC's Health Research Institute. Those estimates are the net results of a variety of significant trends that are pushing costs both up and down. As for health-care reform, the changes that will take place in 2011 will have a minor effect on costs, according to the research (the biggest changes don't start until 2014).