Wisconsin employers largely saw modest health plan cost increases this year, according to a new report.
Pewaukee-based HCTrends recently surveyed more than 300 employers, representing about 170,000 employees, to assess trends in the state's health insurance market.
Just under 60% of employers surveyed had an increase at renewal of 7% or lower, which could in part be driven by a lack of claims from early 2020 when medical facilities were closed for non-emergency services and many people delayed seeking care.
“The rebound effect may be cost pressure heading into renewals at the end of 2021,” the report said.
Small employers had slightly higher plan cost increases, with one in five employers with fewer than 50 employees seeing plan increases greater than 10%.
Premiums for Wisconsin employers rose by an average of about 5% in 2021, with four out of 10 Wisconsin employers surveyed reported premium increases of less than 3% and one in eight reported increases of more than 10%.
Despite low average increases in 2021, 26% of organizations increased their employees’ share of premiums and 21% increased employee out-of-pocket costs, such as co-pays and deductibles, according to the survey. The median deductible for single plans was between $1,000-$1,999 and between $4,000-$5,999 for family plans.
Just over 11% of employers changed carriers or administrators to contain costs.
Employers and employees largely adopted telehealth as a necessity during the pandemic, driving a 4,000% increase in utilization in the Midwest from May 2019 to May 2020. That trend is likely to continue, according to the report. Among those surveyed, 63% said telehealth is their No. 1 cost containment strategy this year.
Employers also appear to be expanding their wellness offerings. Traditionally employer-sponsored wellness programs have included mostly biometric screenings, health risk assessments and smoking cessation programs, but they are now broadening in scope to include mental health and financial health programs. Just over 57% of employers surveyed said they are now offering employee financial health services.
In total, 39% of employers surveyed said they offer a company-sponsored wellness plan. Employers in northeastern and southeastern Wisconsin were more likely to offer wellness plans than employers in southern, northern or western Wisconsin, the survey found. Self-insured plans were also more likely to offer wellness programs than self-insured or level-funded plans.
The majority of survey respondents have fewer than 1,000 employees.
The survey was conducted in cooperation with The Benefit Services Group, Inc. | Hausmann-Johnson Insurance, BSG Analytics, LLC, Business Health Care Group, and The QTI Group.