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Buck: Plan cost increases slow slightly

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Escalation in employer health costs might slow a bit in 2013.

The rate of increase in the “medical trend” or change in the underlying health care costs, for a preferred provider organization (PPO) plan could fall to 9.7 percent in the coming year, from 9.9 percent this year, according to consultants at Buck Consultants.

At high-deductible health plans that include health accounts, the rate of increase could slow from 9.9 percent to 9.6 percent.

The consultants have reported those findings in a summary of results from a recent survey of 132 health insurers and health plan administrators.

The results for the PPO plan exclude the effects of prescription coverage.

The results for the health account plan assume that the plan has a $1,500 deductible and comes with prescription benefits.

Plan costs are still rising much faster than the general inflation rate, the consultants said.

The survey participants, whose companies provide coverage for 109 million U.S. residents, are predicting that the increase rate for prescription drug costs at pharmacy benefits managers (PBMs) will fall to 4.1 percent in 2013, from 4.6 percent this year.

Cost increases at dental plans with reasonable and customary payment systems could rise about 6 percent, down from 6.3 percent, and cost increases at vision plans with reasonable and customary payment systems could increase to 3.1 percent, from 3 percent.

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