In response to rising health care costs and in an effort to comply with the Affordable Care Act, large employers are making several adjustments to their benefit offerings in 2015, including offering more educational tools and limiting plan choices to a single consumer-driven health care plan.

More than half (57%) of large employers are implementing or expanding CDHPs and one-third of employers say they plan to offer a CDHP as their only benefit plan option next year,  according to a survey released Wednesday by the National Business Group on Health.

With employees increasingly inheriting responsibility for complicated and complex health care and cost decisions, it’s not surprising most large employers (73%) also plan to add or expand tools to encourage employees to be better health care consumers.

Benefit advisers can add value to their services by offering employers knowledge and insight into what plan options can best help rein in rising costs and what tools can help educate and guide their unique employee populations.

See related story: CDHP confusion exposes need for adviser assistance, educational tools

“Employers are looking to prepare employees to be in the driver seat,” said Brian Marcotte, president and CEO of NBGH, at a press briefing announcing the survey results. “They are arming employees with decision-making tools. They are arming them with health care shopping tools. They are moving toward account-based plans with health savings accounts and they are building in incentives for wellness programs.”

Many employers (53%) say they plan to either add or expand wellness program incentives, the survey found, adding that employers are increasing focus on weight management and tobacco cessation.

Private exchanges

Interestingly, although the survey found employers are interested in private exchanges as an option, many are not confident they will perform any better than their current benefit plan.

While 77% of large employers surveyed say they are confident in the exchanges’ ability to provide more choice of plans, only 17% are confident exchanges do a better job of engaging employees in better health care decision making and only one in 10 believe exchanges will control costs better than their own plans.

“We’re not seeing movement on active employees being moved into private exchanges,” said Marcotte.

Employers are “clamoring for information and help in understanding private exchanges and whether they make sense for their organizations,” he added. “The proliferation of private exchanges is presenting employers with an option but one that employers need to ask questions about and study carefully.”

Employers are budgeting on average a 5% increase in health care costs for 2015, Marcotte said.


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