Most Wisconsin employers saw insurance premium increase in 2014

About 82 percent of Wisconsin companies reported an increase in premium rates in 2014 in a new survey from MRA-The Management Association.

The Waukesha-based nonprofit employer association surveyed 655 of its members in Wisconsin, Minnesota, Illinois and Iowa for its 2014 Insurance Plans Survey to gauge how they are managing employee health plans. Most of the respondents—402—were from Wisconsin.

Of the respondents who saw a premium increase in 2014, 13 percent absorbed all of the premium increase and 53 percent absorbed most of the increase. The 2014 final premium increase to Wisconsin member companies after implementing plan design changes was 7.8 percent, which was lower than the 8.3 percent increase realized among MRA’s Minnesota member companies.

According to the survey, small employers (fewer than 50 employees) indicated having a higher interest than larger organizations in considering future enrollment into the public Marketplace exchange (10 percent) and private exchanges (21 percent). Many small employers are also trying to sustain a workforce that falls below the 50-employee threshold; 41 percent said they have already taken steps to cap their employee numbers and 16 percent plan to do so in 2015.

Among the popular health plan design options member companies are adding to help control costs are:

*Eligibility audits, opt-out/waivers, spousal surcharges, spousal carve outs, and tobacco surcharges, which can result in better control of plan participation.
*Implementation of robust wellness strategies to provide employees with critical tools to improve their health and enhance their well-being. Programs include health risk assessments, biometric screenings, online health information, smoking/tobacco cessation resources, and other classes.
*Offering Health Reimbursement Accounts (HRAs) and Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) to help employees better manage cost-share and other out-of-pocket health expenses.

“MRA’s 2014 Insurance Plans Survey shows member companies in Wisconsin are pursuing inventive and creative health plan designs to help their organizations and employees better manage increasing insurance and benefit costs,” said Pam Renick, MRA director of surveys and business research. “While the economy continues to improve and the competition for talent becomes more intense, MRA’s survey results prove that offering competitive and comprehensive insurance options is an essential strategy for recruitment and retention in today’s market.

“Interestingly, the 2014 Insurance Plans Survey also shows us that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act has influenced some employers to evaluate their insurance offerings and workforce numbers.”

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