PwC: 46% of employers consider move to high-performance networks

As high-deductible health plans become the norm among U.S. employers, many are beginning to explore different strategies to control medical plan costs, according to a new survey by PricewaterhouseCoopers' Health Research Institute.

The 2016 Health and Well-being Touchstone survey examines health benefits information from more than 1,100 employers in 37 industries across the U.S. The survey was conducted in the first quarter of 2016.

Below are nine survey findings.

1. Medical plan costs continue to increase at a faster rate than inflation, but reported increases were lower than anticipated in 2015. On average, employers reported medical plan costs increased by 6.1 percent, compared to the expected 7.6 percent increase indicated by PwC's 2015 Touchstone survey.

2. About 24 percent of employer participants said they do not expect an increase in medical plan costs for the upcoming year, and 24 percent anticipate a 1 percent to 4 percent increase.

3. The average number of medical plans offered by employers decreased from 4.1 plans in 2015 to 3.6 plans in 2016, with employers most frequently offering three plans.

4. In 2016, about 72 percent of employers offered HDHP options. Of these employers, 32 percent noted that an HDHP was their most popular plan among employees. The number of employers offering HDHP plans with health savings accounts increased from 56 percent in 2015 to 63 percent in 2016.

5. The average individual deductible was $1,155 in 2016, a 12 percent increase from last year.

6. For 2016, employers reported spending $6,860 on average for an employee with individual coverage, and $13,456 per employee across coverage tiers.

7. To better manage costs, employers were more likely to incorporate salary-based contributions (19 percent in 2016 compared to 14 percent in 2014) and smoking surcharges (26 percent in 2016 compared to 20 percent in 2014).

8. Seventy-six percent of employers now offer wellness programs.

9. Overall, 46 percent of employers surveyed are considering implementing value-based plan designs or high-performing networks in the coming year.

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