Insurer Survey Projects Double-Digit Health Plan Cost Increases in 2010

Joe Cantlupe, for HealthLeaders Media , February 1, 2010

A survey of insurers projects the cost of employer-provided health plans will increase at a "double-digit" rate in 2010.

In its 21st National Health Care Trend survey, Buck Consultants found that costs for the most popular medical plans are projected to increase by more than 10% and are in line with previous trends.

In the survey, Buck Consultants measured the projected average annual increase in employer-provided healthcare benefits by analyzing responses from more than 100 health insurers. Insurers providing medical trends for the survey cover about 78 million people.

"Health insurers are concerned about higher costs due to federal mental health parity, as well as an increase in COBRA enrollment," said Harvey Sobel, a Buck principal and consulting actuary who directed the survey. "There is uncertainty due to health care reform and its impact on all sectors of the healthcare industry."

According to the survey, the projected health plan cost increases include:

  • Preferred Provider Organization (PPO) – 11.1%
  • Point-of-service (POS) – 10.9%
  • Health Maintenance Organization (HMO) – 10.3%
  • High Deductible Consumer Driven – 10.3%.

According to the survey, for plans that supplement Medicare, health insurers reported a projected increase of 5.8% excluding prescription drug coverage—down from 7.4% from the prior survey. The lower trend reflects the impact of federal controls on Medicare fees and the lower increases expected in Medicare deductibles and copays, according to Buck Consultants.

Mary Jo Hudson, Ohio's director of insurance, was not surprised by the survey findings. "Medical costs are up 13 to 15%; the expenses of healthcare are the largest driver of the cost of premiums going up," she says.

Joe Cantlupe is a senior editor with HealthLeaders Media Online.

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