In the face of rising health-care costs, business owners are looking for ways to lower their costs come 2013. According to a recent survey, employers are expecting benefits to increase by an average of 7% in the year to come.

The survey from the National Business Group on health, a non-profit association comprised of 342 large employers, found that businesses are considering asking their workers to pay a greater portion of their health-care costs (60%), as well as boosting financial rewards for engaging in healthy lifestyles. The survey is based on responses from 82 large businesses and was conducted prior to the June Supreme Court ruling on Obamacare.

Forty percent of respondents said they plan to increase i-network deductibles, while 33% said they will increase out-of-network deductibles as well as out of pocket maximums (32%).

Businesses also said they believed wellness initiatives would be more effective in controlling health-care costs than shifting the burden of payment onto their workers. Forty-three percent of respondents said consumer-directed health plans were most cost-effective, followed by wellness initiatives with 19% of the response. Less than 10% said increased employee cost-sharing would have an impact. This is a stark contrast from last year, the survey said, when most businesses believed employee cost-sharing was the best way to curb costs.

In order to engage their employees in living healthy lifestyles, businesses (48%) are using incentives to encourage participation in wellness programs. Some businesses (44%) are providing incentives based on if workers smoke tobacco or not, while 29% base awards on achievement of outcomes including BMI and cholesterol levels. Twenty-two percent of employers said they actually impose surcharges on workers who choose not to participate.

Once the Affordable Care Act goes into effect, 50% of respondents said they will no longer have any annual benefit limits in place. Thirty-two percent said they did not make any changes to their annual limits this year, and those who planned on making changes for 2013 said the most common benefits requiring adjustments were mental health and substance abuse, as well as rehabilitative services and devices (both 9%).

More than half of businesses also believe that some retirees might find state health insurance exchanges a viable option. Thirty-eight percent felt that COBRA plan participants might consider exchanges, followed by 35% who felt part-time workers may also benefit from these state-sponsored exchanges.

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