The Business Health Care Group says it believes it and its health carrier helped self-insured member companies cut health costs 4.5% per health plan member over a 2-year period.

The BHCG, Milwaukee, a group that buys health benefits for 675 southeastern Wisconsin companies, says it and Humana Inc., Louisville, Ky., the carrier, helped 18 self-insured member companies lower costs by about 14% in 2006, then helped member companies hold their annual increase to 6.1% in 2007.

Although costs rose in 2007, the BHCG increase was substantially lower than the Milwaukee average increase of about 10%, the BHGC says.

The BHGC notes that the cost change figures include only the underlying medical costs and exclude the effects of changes in benefits.

The self-funded BHGC member companies provide health coverage for about 55,000 employees and dependents.

The latest figures do not include an analysis of costs for insured BHGC members, but the insured members also saved money, the BHGC says.

In related news, the BHGC has renewed its provider network contract with Humana.

The Humana Preferred network created for the BHGC includes 4,500 doctors and 30 hospitals.