Dallas companies and employees had the lowest healthcare premium increases in six years in 2012, according to an analysis by the consulting firm Aon Hewitt.
Dallas also outperformed most other U.S. metropolitan areas in taming employee costs. The average Dallas healthcare plan increased 3.4 percent in 2012, down considerably from 9.7 percent in 2011. Nationally, the cost increase was 4.5 percent.
Aon Hewitt estimated a 6.2 percent increase in Dallas in 2013, which is comparable to the national estimate of 6.3 percent.
In dollar terms, the average healthcare premium costs for major Dallas employers increased from $10,847 in 2011 to $11,214. Nationally, the cost per employee is $10,522.
Total healthcare costs for employees—including employee contributions and out-of-pocket costs—are expected to be $5,564 for Dallas in 2013, which is an increase of 9 percent. According to Aon Hewitt’s projections, Dallas employees’ shares of healthcare costs will have increased by more than 64 percent since 2007. Employees contribute about 21 percent of the cost of their health plans.
The consulting firm surveyed nearly 2,000 U.S. employers representing 20 million employees. Companies have taken several measures to moderate annual cost increases. It found strategies that include:
- Health and wellness programs that have migrated incentives from program participation to results.
- A dramatic increase in consumer-directed health plans (CDHP). About 58 percent of employers offered the high-deductible plans, making them the second most common plan design offered by employers behind preferred provider organizations (PPOs).
- Plan design strategies that encourage employees to consume less health care, such as replacing copays with coinsurance and encouraging migration to generic prescription drugs.
Robyn Bayne, Aon Hewitt’s Dallas leader, said the low penetration of health maintenance organizations locally allow employers to execute those strategies through CDHPs and PPOs. She said health-reform changes contributed to the spike in costs last year.
Bayne noted healthcare costs are significant higher in Dallas than the national average. She said the cost of care generally is higher locally, and greater utilization by North Texas employees reflects a higher prevalence of chronic conditions and unhealthy lifestyles.
The survey found that more than 40 percent of employers are considering moving to a corporate healthcare exchange model in the next three-to-five years.
Steve Jacob is editor of D Healthcare Daily and author of the new book Health Care in 2020: Where Uncertain Reform, Bad Habits, Too Few Doctors and Skyrocketing Costs Are Taking Us. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.