More employers consider narrow networks, low deductibles

Four in 10 employers offer low or no-deductible plans, and 15% of employers will offer their employees coverage with no premium, according to Mercer's "Health and Benefit Strategies for 2024" report. 

The report, published Nov. 17, surveyed 1,917 public and private employers. 

The number of employers offering free coverage to employees increased from 11% from 2022. Employers surveyed predicted their healthcare costs will rise 5.4% in 2024, though 45% of employers said they did not plan to increase cost-sharing for employees. 

Some employers are charging premiums based on employees' salaries. In 2023, 29% of large employers used salary-based contributions, which will rise to 34% in 2024. 

Mercer is also seeing "increasing interest" from employers in network configurations beyond traditional PPOs, according to the consulting group's report. Among employers with more than 20,000 employees, 29% offer some form of curated network, such as Aetna's premier care network or Anthem's high performance network. 

Another 10% offer plans from smaller carriers like Centivo or Imagine Health, and an additional 10% use some other form of high performing network. 

Employers are also planning to add more women's reproductive health resources — 46% of employers surveyed plan to offer some form of benefits like high-risk pregnancy support or menopausal benefits in 2024, up from 37% in 2023. 

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