U.S. employers held the growth in health benefits costs per employee to just 3.8 percent in 2015. Kansas City area employers tamped down cost growth even further, holding it to 2.8 percent.
The figures for employee health benefits costs were published Thursday by Mercer, which annually conducts a National Survey of Employer-Sponsored Health Plans. Thirty-seven Kansas City area employers were included in the survey.
According to national results for this year, total health benefits costs averaged $11,635 per employee. That included both employer and employee contributions for medical, dental and other health coverage of all covered employees and dependents.
Among the Kansas City area employers, total health benefits costs averaged $11,024 this year, according to Mark Whiting, principal in Mercer’s Kansas City office.
According to a separate health care costs study, to be released Friday by The Commonwealth Fund, such expenses are deemed unaffordable by a share of working-age adults. Details will be published at CommonwealthFund.org.
Nationally, the Mercer report said, employers are trying to limit exposure to a 40 percent excise tax that goes into effect in 2018 on rich-benefit “Cadillac” health insurance plans, according to a provision of the Affordable Care Act. That appears to have limited concern among Kansas City area employers.
Employers have kept the rise in their annual per-employee health benefit costs to less than 4 percent for the last three years. Much of that cost containment has been achieved by altering benefit plans. Employers also have limited their costs by requiring employees to shoulder a larger share of the expense.
Looking ahead, employers said they expected an average cost increase of 4.3 percent, largely because they plan to continue making changes in their benefit plans. If they make no changes, they expect an average cost increase of 6.3 percent.
The Kansas City area employers expect their 2016 health benefits costs to rise 5.8 percent if they make no changes in their plans, but they plan to hold the increase to about 4.1 percent by changing plan benefits or vendors.
Other details drawn from the 37 participating Kansas City employers:
▪ Seventy percent of them — double the national average — offer a high-deductible, consumer-directed health plan with a health savings account or health reimbursement account feature.
▪ Sixty percent of employees enrolled in health plans are in a preferred provider organization/point of service plan. Thirty-one percent are in consumer-directed health plans, and only 9 percent are in health maintenance organizations.
▪ The average employee contribution for employee-only coverage ranges from $53 to $107 a month, depending on the type of health plan.
▪ No employer in the local survey planned to stop offering employee health benefit plans.