Managed health care plans hold sway Area employers are surveyed

January 30, 1996|By Mark Guidera | Mark Guidera,SUN STAFF

Employers in Maryland and the Baltimore-Washington region reported higher increases in spending on employee health benefits than businesses nationally, and they also said more of their workers are covered by managed health care plans.

The annual survey conducted by New York-based A. Foster Higgins & Co, found that managed care plans in 1995 were so widely offered by employers that they should be considered the norm rather than the exception.

The health care and employee benefits consultant said 102 employers in Maryland and Washington, D.C., responded to the survey. The firm sampled 2,800 employers nationwide.

Foster Higgins said it found in the annual survey that enrollment increases in managed care plans, which seek to hold down costs while offering quality health services, occurred at a rapid pace during 1994 and 1995.

Other highlights of the survey:

* Nationally, employers' spending increased to an average of $4,181 per employee annually in 1995 -- a 3.5 percent increase over spending in 1994.

* Among employers in the Baltimore-Washington area responding to the survey, health benefits spending was slightly higher: $4,316. That is a 3.9 percent increase over the 1994 figure, the survey said.

* Among the Maryland businesses surveyed, health benefit costs were found to average $4,460 and were found to have increased 5.7 percent over 1994.

With respect to increasing participation in managed health care plans, the survey, found that:

* Nationally, 71 percent of workers covered by a health plan at work joined a manage care plan in 1995. That is an 8 percent gain over 1994, Foster Higgins said.

* In the Baltimore-Washington region, the incidence of workers covered by managed health care plans was much higher -- 81 percent -- among firms responding to the survey than the national figure, the consultant found.

* And in Maryland the number of employees covered by a managed care plan through their employer was found to be even higher: 89 percent.

Foster Higgins found that the biggest surge in employees joining managed care plans through their employer occurred in the Southern states, among which Maryland was included in the survey.

Two trends to watch, said Foster Higgins: more employers -- 52 )) percent -- measuring how their employees feel about the quality of their health plan coverage, and a growing interest among employers in reducing health care costs associated with retired workers because it's become more expensive.

Large companies with 500 or more employees said their spending on health care benefits for retired workers jumped 9.5 percent in 1995.

Some employers have dealt with the rising costs by discontinuing coverage altogether, the survey found.

But the consultant predicts more firms will decide to shift retired workers into health maintenance plans which specialize in managing coverage for retired workers eligible for Medicare.

In 1995, Foster Higgins found, the number of large employers offering HMO coverage to Medicare-eligible retirees tripled nationwide to 21 percent.

The trend was most evident in Western states.

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