The weak economy, which has reduced healthcare service utilization, was cited as the leading contributor to the moderation in premium and healthcare costs.
And while the increase in premiums may be modest, more employers are passing along a bigger share of healthcare costs to their employees. Some 78% of employees now face an annual deductible, up from 58% in 2006. And the average deductible has almost doubled from $584 in 2006 to $1,135 in 2013.
Speaking during a press conference, Altman noted that workers in lower-wage firms are feeling the brunt of cost increases, paying $1,363 more toward family premiums than their counterparts in higher-wage firms.
For now employers' favored cost-cutting strategy involves offering wellness programs. Some 35% of respondents identified wellness programs as a "very effective" cost containment strategy. Some 99% of large firms (200 or more employees) and 76% of small firms (199 or fewer employees) offer at least one wellness program.
The most popular wellness programs for large employees are flu shots, employee assistance programs, and Web-based resources for healthy living. Some 36% of large employers and 8% of small employers offer wellness incentives.