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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 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.

But to successfully navigate the health system and advocate for the best care, people also need a basic understanding of common health insurance terms, like "deductibles" and "coinsurance." And they need to feel confident about asking health-care providers for prices and managing out-of-pocket expenses, Benz said.

"If employers aren't doing that kind of education, the tools that they provide aren't going to change [consumer] behavior," she said.

Despite offering tools and information to help employees choose appropriate providers of care, it's still difficult to compare costs of office visits, surgical procedures and diagnostic tests, experts said.

"If I were going to buy a car, I can go on AutoTrader, I can go on Edmunds, I can go on (Kelley) Blue Book . . . and I can analyze cars and get top flight reviews," said Michael LaPenna, principal of The LaPenna Group, a Grand Rapids, Mich.-based health-care consulting firm.

"We don't have that stuff yet for health care," he said.

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