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Health Care Reform:

Health Insurance & Affordable Care Act

More Employers Moving to These Health Plans

Companies looking to offset rising insurance costs in 2015 and beyond, survey finds

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The National Business Group on Health, whose members provide benefits to 50 million U.S. employees, retirees and their families, surveyed 136 employers in June about anticipated health costs and plan design changes.

Eighty-one percent of large employers in the survey said they would offer at least one consumer-directed health plan in 2015, up from 72 percent in 2014.

One-third of employers (32 percent) said consumer-directed health plans are the only health plans they will offer in 2015. That's up from 22 percent this year.

While traditional "preferred provider organization" plans -- or PPOs -- remain the most common type of insurance offered by large employers, consumer-directed health plans are poised to eclipse the popularity of those traditional plans, the survey found.

The median consumer-directed health plan deductible will run approximately $3,000 for a family and $1,500 for an individual in 2015. That compares to a median PPO deductible of $1,168 for a family and $450 for an individual, according to the report.

Employee premium contributions -- on a percentage basis -- for both types of plans will remain roughly the same as in recent years, with employers picking up 80 percent of the tab, on average.

And while companies aren't preparing to do away with health-care coverage for employees in the foreseeable future, significant changes are coming, the survey found.

By 2015, an estimated 3 percent of employers will have moved their employees to a private health exchange -- a marketplace much like the public exchanges under the Affordable Care Act that allows workers to compare and shop for insurance coverage. More than one-third of employers are considering such a move for 2016 and beyond.

The survey also found that employers said they're adding and expanding programs and tools to help employees make better-informed health decisions. Eighty-five percent of companies surveyed, for example, offer "nurse coaching" to assist employees and their families when managing chronic health conditions. And 71 percent provide "price transparency" tools to increase employee awareness of medical and pharmacy costs.

Adding new tools is "very helpful and very necessary," said Jennifer Benz, CEO and founder of Benz Communications, a San Francisco-based consulting firm specializing in benefits communication.

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