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March 20, 2006
Sharp Rise in Employers Using Consumer-Driven Health Care Plans

In order to curb rising health care costs, more employers are implementing consumer-driven health care plans (CDHPs). In fact, according to a new survey, there's been a sharp rise just from one year ago in the number of employee utilizing CDHPs.

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Watson Wyatt and the National Business Group on Health conducted the survey 585 large and mid-sized U.S. employers and found that 29 percent are now offering a high-deductible health plan (HDHP) with either a health savings account (HSA) or health reimbursement account (HRA). This figure reflects a dramatic jump since 2004, when only 7 percent of employers offered such plans. In 2005, 13 percent of employers offered HDHP and a reimbursement arrangement. Meanwhile, an additional 33 percent plan to implement such plans in 2007, according to the survey.

"The combination of high-deductible plans and savings accounts can help employers encourage employees to become more discerning health care consumers," said Helen Darling, president of the National Business Group on Health, in a press release that accompanied the Delivering on Health Care Consumerism: Strategies for Employer Success --11th Annual National Business Group on Health/Watson Wyatt Survey Report 2006 survey. "Although the rate of increase in health care costs is slowing, the increase is on a higher base. Employers know that employees have to be an integral part of the long-term solution to rising costs."

"Healthcare consumerism is about more than high-deductible plans," added Ted Nussbaum, Watson Wyatt's director of group and health care consulting. "The best-performing companies are using various tactics to engage employees and lower cost trends because they recognize that all employees may not be driven by financial incentives alone."

"Employers should not focus on employee accountability alone," Darling noted. "When used in combination with promoting quality care, health management, use of data and appropriate use of care, companies are able to achieve significantly lower cost trends."

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