Survey: Midstate companies cut back on health care options

Written by Ben Allen, General Assignment Reporter | May 31, 2016 8:52 AM

(Harrisburg) -- An annual survey shows some midstate employers are limiting health benefits in an effort to control costs: a majority of the companies surveyed say they now offer high deductible plans.

In 2014, about 40 percent of companies that took the Conrad Siegel survey said they included high deductible plans for employees.

Now, it's climbed to 50 percent.

High deductible plans typically have lower monthly premiums and allow employees to set aside money tax-free, but employees are responsible for medical bills up to five, six or seven-thousand dollars.

Rob Glus with Conrad Siegel says the plans also force employees to understand how much each procedure or office visit costs...

"People are looking for some way of engaging employees in the cost of health care and I think employers are generally just looking at those things and anything I can do to engage the employees in at least an understanding. Even if it's at a small level."

Glus admits there isn't much employees would like in the survey.

More employers are raising surcharges for spousal coverage, or barring spouses from health insurance outright.

Conrad Siegel says more than 110 midstate companies of all sizes responded to the survey.

Compared to 20-14, fewer companies offer health insurance coverage for their employees spouses, and of the ones that do, some impose a surcharge that has jumped to an average of nearly 23-hundred dollars.

That's more than 500 dollars higher than last year.

More companies are also shifting to high deductible plans, where an employee puts money away tax-free to cover nearly all their health care costs, up to a point.

Rob Glus with Conrad Siegel, which ran the survey, says the midstate is just following the trend across the U-S...

"We've always sort of lagged behind locally in our survey versus national data in terms of people shifting towards high deductibles. But I think now, we're seeing locally we're pretty much right on with what the national data suggests."

Glus readily admits there isn't good news for employees in the survey - except that copays and the employee share of the premium hasn't changed significantly.

He says companies that go with high deductible plans are trying to show employees the true cost of health care, while also limiting their exposure to rising expenses.

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