Article as seen in Hartford Business on October 26, 2016 written by John Stearns

Total health benefits cost per employee increased 2.2 percent in Connecticut this year, about on par with the nation, to an average of $13,910 per worker, according to results of Mercer’s annual health benefits survey released today. But the cost was about $2,000 more than the national average.

The cost includes both employer and employee contributions for medical, dental and other health coverage for all covered employees and dependents, Mercer said.

Nationally, total cost per employee rose an average of 2.4 percent, the smallest increase since 2013 and, before that, 1997, as more employees moved into lower-cost medical plans, the global consultant said. The total cost averaged $11,920 per employee.

Mercer’s National Survey of Employer-Sponsored Health Plans included 2,544 participants, 46 of those in Connecticut.

U.S. enrollment in high-deductible consumer-directed health plans (CDHPs) jumped to 29 percent of all covered workers this year, up from 25 percent in 2015, Mercer said. Coverage in a CDHP — for which employee paycheck deductions are typically lower — that is eligible for a health savings account cost 22 percent less, on average, than coverage in a traditional PPO plan among large employers, even when employer contributions to employee HSA accounts are included, Mercer said.

Employers predicted their total health benefit cost per employee would rise by an average 4.1 percent in 2017, which reflects changes employers will make to contain costs, such as switching carriers, adding a CDHP or changing plan design, Mercer said. If they make no changes, costs would rise an estimated 6.3 percent.

Connecticut employers said that if they made no changes, costs would rise 5.9 percent next year, but they expect to hold their increase to 3.8 percent with changes, Mercer said.

In Connecticut, 85 percent of respondents offered a CDHP with an account feature (HAS or HRA) this year and of those sponsoring an HSA-eligible CDHP, 74 percent made a contribution to the employees’ accounts.

Almost half (48 percent) of all employees in the state covered in respondents’ health plans are enrolled in PPO/POS plans, 8 percent in HMOs and 44 percent in CDHPs, Mercer said. The median PPO deductible is $750.

The average employee contribution in Connecticut for employee-only coverage is $186 per month for a PPO/POS plan, $140 per month for an HMO and $83 per month for an HAS-eligible CDHP, Mercer said.why-diversified-group