Employers remain committed to providing active employee health care benefits in the near future, but also are taking aggressive actions to improve care delivery and manage rising costs.

According to a survey from Towers Watson and the National Business Group on Health, employers expect average total costs for active employees to reach $12,136 in 2013, up 5 percent from $11,457 in 2012, which is the lowest cost increase in 15 years. Despite the relatively moderate cost increases of the last few years, employees contribute 42 percent more for health care than they did five years ago, compared with a 32 percent increase for employers. The total employee cost share, including premiums and out-of-pocket costs, has climbed from 34 percent in 2011 to 37 percent in 2013.

In the coming years, more than 80 percent of respondents plan to continue to raise the share of premiums paid by employees, including rethinking their subsidy strategy for dependents. Subsidies for retiree medical coverage have declined, too, with only 15 percent of companies offering them to newly hired employees today.

Other survey findings include:

  • Nearly half of employers expect significant or transformative change over the next five years: 49 percent expect more health care price transparency; 45 percent expect to see new access points for health care, such as telemedicine and e-visits; and 39 percent are expecting providers to be reimbursed based on quality, efficiency and outcome improvements.
  • Nearly 30 percent of employers already are facilitating access to an exchange-based solution for retirees and another 36 percent are planning to do so over the next three years.
  • More than 80 percent of employers said it is not at all likely that their organization will direct active employees to an exchange without a subsidy in the next five years; and 60 percent said the same, even with a subsidy.
  • Nearly two-thirds of respondents offer employees financial rewards to encourage participation in health programs: 16 percent align their rewards/penalties to specific biometric targets and another 31 percent are considering this strategy for 2014. Nearly 60 percent anticipate expanding incentives to spouses by 2014, up from 23 percent that did so in 2012.

For more, go to www.businessgrouphealth.org.