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February 16, 2006
Employers Expect Slower Healthcare Cost Increase

Employers expect healthcare benefit costs to increase a median 8 percent this year and next year, down from the 10 percent increase they expected in 2005, according to a survey conducted by Watson Wyatt Worldwide and the National Business Group on Health.

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Eighty-six percent of respondents said their health care benefit costs came in at or below budget in 2005.

Many employers are planning to implement strategies to better manage their healthcare benefit programs, according to the survey. Thirty-two percent of respondents said that in the next one to two years they will start encouraging workers to use healthcare services wisely while 30 percent said they plan to increase accountability of employees to manage their own health. About one-fourth of employers plan to focus on ways to improve their workers' health.

The survey included responses from 585 large employers that collectively employ more than 13 million full-time workers.

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