NU Online News Service, July 30, 4:10 p.m. – Many small and midsize employers want to make major changes to their health care purchasing strategies, according to results of an informal survey conducted by the Los Angeles of Deloite & Touche L.L.P. and Business & Health Magazine, Montvale, N.J.

Researchers used paper surveys and Web surveys to get responses from 477 human resources executives.

Because of the nature of Business & Health’s readership, 70% of the responses came from executives at companies with more than 1,000 employees.

The survey revealed a big split between the attitudes of the executives at companies with fewer than 1,000 employees and those at companies with more than 10,000 employees.

Only 12% of the executives at the biggest companies reported their companies were considering dramatic changes in health care purchasing strategies, but 32% of the executives at the smaller companies said their companies were considering making dramatic changes.

But survey participants reported the changes their companies are actually contemplating were relatively modest.

Researchers found that human resources executives believe preferred provider organizations are growing in popularity among employees, while the popularity of more restrictive health maintenance organizations and point-of-service plans appears to be falling.

But only 58% of the survey participants said their companies are considering a shift to the new plan design generating the most buzz, the “defined-contribution” health plan, which typically offers a combination of catastrophic major medical insurance and “health reimbursement accounts” that can be used to pay routine medical bills.

Survey participants told researchers that, in the real world, the most common employer strategy for controlling health care costs has been an effort to increase deductibles, co-payments and co-insurance.

Fifty-two percent of the participants said their companies have been increasing deductibles, co-payments and co-insurance, up from 47% in 2001.

Twenty percent of the participants described increasing employees’ share of the premiums as their companies’ primary cost-control strategy, and only 15% said their companies were putting their health plan business up for bid.