The recession is forcing employers to increase cost-sharing approaches as plan participants increase their use of the benefits out of fear they might lose them, a new survey finds.
While less than 4% of plan sponsors have cut or are considering cutting health care benefits altogether, many are ramping up their cost-sharing approaches, according to the study by the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans, Brookfield, Wisc.
IFEBP found 35% of plan sponsors are increasing employee deductibles, coinsurance or copays due to the financial crisis, while nearly the same proportion are also increasing employee premiums. Other cost-sharing actions that plan sponsors have taken include adding consumer-driven health plans as an option (13%), replacing a current plan with a consumer-driven plan (10%) and instituting spousal charges (11%).
Perhaps fearing an impending layoff, plan participants are increasing use of their benefits, the survey found. About one-third of plan sponsors reported seeing an increase in the number of participants filling prescriptions and engaging in costly medical procedures. In addition, 24% observed growth in the number of participants adding dependents to their plans. At the same time, 18% have introduced or are considering dependent eligibility audits.
About 20% of respondents reported plan participants are delaying medical care and skimping on prescription drugs because of financial problems.