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Aon: Employers to Share More of the Pain

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A majority of U.S. employers expect to ask employees to pay more for health coverage in 2011.

About 57% of employers plan to increase employees’ contributions, and 65% expect to increase deductibles, co-payments, out-of-pocket maximums and other cost-sharing amounts and percentages, according to Aon Consulting, a unit of Aon Corp., Chicago (NYSE:AON).

Aon has published those figures in a summary of results from a survey of 1,079 employers.

Employers continue to make an effort to shield workers from the full brunt of health coverage inflation: Just 40% of the survey participants say the additional workers contributions will be equal to the 2011 renewal cost increases. About 49% say the increase in workers’ contributions will be less than the renewal increase.

Similarly, 46% of the employers that expect to pass on costs through changes in plan design expect the changes to equal the renewal increase, but 46% expect the effects of plan design changes to be less than the renewal increase.

Because of the state of the economy, Aon is taking a note of a group of plan enrollees who might have received less attention in the past: Departing workers who choose to take up Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA) benefits continuation coverage.

For workers continuing preferred provider organization health coverage through COBRA, the average monthly cost has increased 2.3%, to $449, for employee-only coverage, and 6.8%, to $1,171 per month, for employee-plus-family coverage, according to Aon. Changes in the average COBRA cost could be affected by factors such as changes in the types of employers shedding workers as well as changes in the underlying health coverage prices.

Unemployed people who have COBRA coverage seem to be more determined than in the past to get conditions treated while they still have COBRA coverage, according to John Zern, an executive vice president at Aon Consulting.

“The increased frequency and duration of COBRA use is creating a significant strain on the program, leading to higher costs,” Zern says in a statement.

Aon Consulting is estimating the Affordable Care Act, the package that includes the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, will add a total of about 2 percentage points to 4 percentage points to the underlying health coverage inflation rate over the next 3 years.


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