KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Firms Tweak Benefit Plans In District Of Columbia And Baltimore Area

The Washington Post reports that "More Washington- and Baltimore-area employers are shifting health-insurance costs to workers, offering high-deductible health plans and imposing restrictions on prescription-drug coverage to save money in the recession, according to a new survey by area human resources managers to be released today. But to keep good workers from jumping ship, according to the survey, more employers are offsetting the restrictions by beefing up other perks -- giving staff more flexibility in taking time off and working from home, and extending benefits to domestic partners."

"The 220-page study is based on a survey of 265 companies and government agencies in the area." It was conducted between February and April. "This year, 23 percent of the employers said they raised co-pays for their workers, compared with 16.4 percent last year. Twenty percent said they raised deductibles this year, compared with 12.8 percent last year. If the economy doesn't improve, experts say, the trend will accelerate next year."

"For now, more employers are attempting to save money by switching to high-deductible 'consumer-driven health plans' -- this year, 18 percent of employers said they were offering them, compared with 15 percent last year -- and controlling prescription costs by requiring workers to buy generics or to obtain permission before purchasing certain drugs." Employers also are promoting healthy living -- "offering flu shots, free medical screenings, stress-management courses, and nutrition and weight-loss programs." The Post notes: "Unlike companies in other parts of the country that have been aggressively laying off workers to save money, Washington-area employers "are scaling back on benefits to preserve jobs," said George Lane, chair of the benefits survey committee of the Human Resource Association of the National Capital Area, which conducted the survey" (Haynes, 6/23).

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