What can U.S. workers expect when they receive their fall openenrollment benefit packages for 2010? In short, higher costs. Butthrough research, global consulting firm Watson Wyatt hasidentified a few financial rewards trends in health benefits plansfor next year.


Employees might find their 2010 employee benefit packagesinclude financial rewards for promoting healthy lifestyles, fullcoverage for preventive services, closer scrutiny of dependent andspousal coverage, and greater use of consumer-directed health plans(CDHPs), according to benefit experts at Watson Wyatt.


"Faced with an uncertain economy and rising health care coststhat show few signs of slowing, many employers have made changes totheir health benefit plans for 2010," said Tom Billet, a seniorconsultant with Watson Wyatt. "While next year's benefits willreflect these higher costs, workers can also expect employers tocontinue their commitment to encourage employees to lead healthylifestyles."


Watson Wyatt benefit consultants have identified trends thatemployees can expect to see in their benefit packages during openenrollment:

  • Higher out-of-pocket costs. More than four in10 employers in a recent Watson Wyatt survey said they will raisedeductibles, copayments and out-of-pocket maximums due to theeconomic crisis. Some employers might raise doctor visit copaymentsby $5. Others might no longer provide 100 percent coverage forin-network services, opting instead to introduce some level ofcoinsurance to encourage workers to be more aware of the cost ofservices. Deductibles for individual and family coverage areexpected to increase by $50 to $100 or more among someemployers.
  • Greater use of incentives to stay healthy.Employers are continuing their push to improve the health ofemployees and their families. In addition to continuing the focuson wellness communication, employers are offering workers (and, insome cases, spouses) more incentives like gift cards, cash anddiscounted premiums for undergoing a health risk assessment orparticipating in smoking cessation, weight management or fitnessprograms. They are also giving workers access to onsite healthcoaching as well as using health service providers to deliverWeb-based and telephonic coaching.
  • Consumer-directed health plans. More employerswill offer CDHPs next year as they are increasingly viewed as aneffective way to control rising costs. Those employers adopting newplans are generally adding a high-deductible plan, often with ahealth savings account. Most employers adding these plans willoffer them as an option to workers rather than replacing theirtraditional health plans.
  • Consolidation of health plan offerings. Someemployers plan to reduce the number of health plan options theyoffer to workers. As more employers consolidate and change theirhealth plans and networks for 2010, some employees might have tochange physicians or pay higher out-of-network costs.
  • Prescription drug benefits. Some workers willsee changes to their prescription drug benefits in 2010. As part ofan overall movement to CDHPs, a number of employers are introducinga CDHP prescription drug benefit option that typically offersworkers 100 percent coverage on a list of preventive medications.Other companies are introducing value-based designs that includezero copays on certain prescription drug therapies that are knownto help lower health costs and reduce hospitalizations.
  • Closer eye on spousal and dependent coverage.Employers are increasingly revisiting spousal and dependentcoverage in their efforts to control rising costs. Some employersare requiring spouses to complete health risk assessments, whileothers are charging higher premiums for working spouses who haveaccess to other health care coverage. More employers are alsoexpected to audit their workers to eliminate dependents who are noteligible for coverage.

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