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Marsh & McLennan Agency Survey: Health Plan Cost Increases by 3%, Lower than Prior Two Years

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May 28, 2019

Cost trends reflect impact of prescription drug plan changes, offering consumer-driven health plans, and expanding the scope of wellbeing programs.
 

Troy, Michigan – Health care costs for Michigan employers grew at an average rate of just 3% after plan changes, down from 5% in 2017 and 2018, according to survey results released by Marsh & McLennan Agency LLC. Conducted annually for 16 years, the Michigan Mid-Market Group Benefits Survey benchmarks health benefits and cost trends for 2019 among 383 Michigan organizations with 100-10,000 employees. 

The 2019 survey highlights three notable trends among participants according to Rebecca McLaughlan, president & CEO of Michigan’s employee health benefits practice:

  • Employers are deploying consumer-driven health plans to help manage costs as well as support employees’ financial wellbeing via use of health savings accounts.
  • To proactively manage pharmacy costs, employers are adding more copay tiers, and are requiring use of step therapy and generics at a higher rate.
  • Employers are broadening the definition of wellbeing beyond strictly physical benchmarks and focusing on addressing financial, mental health and social needs of their workforce.

“With Michigan’s current low unemployment rate, employers are acutely aware that their health and wellbeing benefits can make the difference. To that end, organizations are balancing the need to manage the growing cost of health care and prescription drug costs with the need to engage and retain their workforce,” says McLaughlan.

2019 Survey Results Highlights:

  • Health plan cost increases in 2019 are at 3% after plan changes compared to 5% in 2018 and 2017. The average cost increase before plan changes in 2019 was 5%.
  • Locally, employers made minimal changes in their plan design, with employee contributions remaining relatively flat.
  • Consumer-driven health plans (CDHP) are now an established strategy with more than half (55%) of Michigan employers surveyed offering a CDHP plan. Employee interest remains steady with 30% enrolling in a CDHP plan in both 2019 and 2018.
  • More employers are making contributions to their employees’ Health Savings Accounts, up from 60% in 2018 to 62% in 2019. The average contribution is unchanged at $500/single and $1000/family.
  • Organizations are proactively managing their prescription drug programs with forty-seven percent (47%) of Michigan employers incorporating 4th or 5th copay tiers.
  • Michigan organizations are requiring mandatory generics at a greater rate than nationally (52% vs. 35%) and some Michigan organizations (13%) are eliminating coverage for certain specialty drugs.
  • More Michigan employers (59% in 2019 vs. 49% in 2018) are expanding wellbeing initiatives to include all benefit-eligible employees, not just those enrolled in the health plan.
  • Of those organizations that focus on wellbeing, 71% also focus on financial wellbeing and 83% focus on mental wellbeing.
  • Eighty-seven percent of employers offer telemedicine, with organizations now focusing on increasing employee awareness and utilization.

The survey designated 113 top-performing organizations as TrendBenders™, those that successfully kept their two-year average benefit cost increases in check. For the third consecutive year, TrendBenders™ reported a 3% average cost decrease versus all other survey participants.

“TrendBender™ organizations adopted leading-edge strategies such as CDHP plans and wellbeing initiatives earlier and, in so doing, are better able to manage their medical spend. They have taken a thoughtful approach to employee education and committed to key strategies for the long term,” says Kim Clark, senior vice president with Marsh & McLennan Agency and survey leader.

The Mid-Market Group Benefits Survey is the largest of its kind with 420 Michigan-based midsize organizations participating, including 383 employers representing a cross-section of the region’s economic base, as well as municipalities and school districts. Data for municipalities and school districts is analyzed separately.  The survey has a 4.6% margin of error.

The survey is conducted by the Michigan office of Marsh & McLennan Agency LLC and results are shared exclusively with participants. For information, contact Ryan Bowers at (248) 822-6231 or visit mma-mi.com.

About Marsh & McLennan Agency
Marsh & McLennan Agency LLC is a subsidiary of Marsh established in 2008 to serve as a platform for the middle market. MMA offers commercial property, casualty, personal lines, and employee benefits to midsize businesses and individuals across North America.

About Marsh
Marsh is the world’s leading insurance broker and risk adviser. With over 35,000 colleagues operating in more than 130 countries, Marsh serves commercial and individual clients with data driven risk solutions and advisory services. Marsh is a wholly owned subsidiary of Marsh & McLennan Companies NYSE: MMC), the leading global professional services firm in the areas of risk, strategy and people. With annual revenue over US$15 billion and 75,000 colleagues worldwide, MMC helps clients navigate an increasingly dynamic and complex environment through four market-leading firms: Marsh, Guy Carpenter, Mercer, and Oliver Wyman. Follow Marsh on Twitter @MarshGlobal; LinkedIn; Facebook; and YouTube, or subscribe to BRINK.


 

 
Contact:
Ryan Bowers, Marketing Director
(248) 822-6231

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