Many large U.S. employers intend to increase employees’ in-network deductibles and employees’ share of the premiums in 2012.

The National Business Group on Health (NBGH), Washington, has reported those findings in a summary of results from a recent survey of 83 large employers that employ about 4 million people.

Half of the employers are assuming the increase in medical trend — the expected increase in the underlying costs — will be 7.5% in 2012. That’s down from a median increase assumption of 7.7% used in 2011 benefits budget estimates, but the increase will come at a time when the economy is still soft.

About 25% of the participants identified increasing employee cost-sharing as the best way to cut costs, and 23% citied offering a high-deductible health plan that incorporates a personal account as the best approach.

Only 13% are expecting to increase in-network deductibles more than 10%, but 39% are expecting to increase the in-networks at least a little.

Similarly, only 10% of empoyers are expecting to increase employees’ percentage contribution to the premium cost by 10% or more, but 53% are expect to impose some increase in the percentage contribution.

Employers told the NBGH their health plans already are starting to face the effects of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 (PPACA). PPACA has created a “grandfathered plan status” for plans that have undergone no major changes since the date PPACA became law. Having grandfathered status protects a plan against some of the new PPACA mandates. But only 23% of the employers said they are certain to have any grandfathered health plans in place in 2012.

Allison Bell

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