By Matt Dunning, Crain News Service
ITASCA, Ill. (Oct. 7, 2013) — Nearly half of small and midsize employers will include a high-deductible health plan among their group health benefit options by 2015.
That's according to a survey by Itasca-based Arthur J. Gallagher & Co., a global insurance brokerage and risk management services firm.
High-deductible health plans (HDHPs) were the second-most common coverage offering among the 957 employers polled in Gallagher's "2013 Benefit Strategy and Benchmarking Survey," with 34 percent currently offering high-deductible plans to their employees alongside more traditional plan types.
Among employers not currently offering coverage through an HDHP—also known as a consumer-driven health plan—nearly 23 percent said they plan to do so by next year, according to an executive summary of the survey released Oct. 3.
Seventy-seven percent of employers offer coverage through a preferred provider organization (PPO), while 32 percent offer a health management organization (HMO) plan, according to the survey.
More than 92 percent of the employers polled in Gallagher's study had fewer than 5,000 full-time workers, according to a spokesman for the brokerage firm, and 75 percent had fewer than 1,000 workers.
Drive to control costs
The prevalence of small and midsize employers concerned about controlling health care costs in the near term—with 80 percent of all employers in the survey ranking it among their top three challenges for 2014—likely is a key driver in the growing interest in high-deductible plan designs.
"Finding the right balance between maintaining an engaged workforce and effectively managing the total cost of that workforce was a key focus for all organizations," Sean Schubert, Gallagher's vice president of sales and marketing, said in a statement.
While they appear to be gaining in popularity as a coverage option among employers, employee enrollment in HDHPs remained relatively low in 2013, according to the study. Less than 15 percent of employers polled said their HDHP was their most popular plan offering, compared with 58 percent that said their PPO option drew the greatest number of enrollees. About one in five employers said their HMO was their most popular plan among their workers.
This report appeared in Business Insurance magazine, a Chicago-based sister publication of Tire Business.