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Insurers expect premiums to surge

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Health plan analysts are increasingly pointing to runaway prescription drug prices as the primary culprit in escalating premiums and co-pays. But there might be some relief in sight.

A survey of insurers from Wells Fargo Insurance revealed that prescription plan increases will lead the way in 2015 and 2016, with double-digit hikes anticipated by the insurers surveyed.

Wells Fargo asked representatives of some 65 insurance firms what percentage increases they expect to see this year and next. Overall, respondents said they were prepared for overall increases of nearly 8 percent this year and close to 9 percent in 2016.

When sorted by plan, prescription plan projected increases were well above those of HMOs, POSs, PPOs, and consumer-driven plans, and marginally higher even than indemnity plans.

That said, the sun of hope did peek through the clouds of cost escalation: Respondents forecast a leveling of drug plan increases in 2016 — the only plan for which that forecast was made.

Here’s the consensus:

Plan Increases (in percentage)

2015                            2016 (projected)

HMOs

7.2                               8.6

POSs

7.7                               8.8

PPOs

7.9                               8.7

Consumer driven

8                                  8.9

Indemnity

9                                  9.6

Prescription

10.2                             10.1

 “The results of the survey indicate rising cost trends that will force companies into a delicate balancing act of providing competitive benefits while also managing costs effectively and complying with regulations,” said Dan Gowen, national practice leader with Wells Fargo Insurance’s Employee Benefits National Practice.