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Robert Trigaux

With double-digit healthcare plan price hikes on the way, will pay gains be trimmed to pay for it?



Brace yourself-- especially those of you with frozen or even reduced salaries and wages. Another healthcare bill's about to smack you in the wallet.

Health care costs are expected to increase on average 10.5 percent in the next 12 months, says Aon Consulting, which tracks healthcare cost trends. Aon said it surveyed more than 60 leading health care insurers representing more than 100 million insured individuals.

The results? Not encouraging: Healthcare costs are projected to increase by:

* 10.4 percent for HMOs

* 10.4 percent for POS plans

* 10.7 percent for PPOs

* And 10.5 percent for CDH plans.

These hikes are slightly lower than one year ago, when HMO cost increases were 10.6 percent and POS plans were 10.5 percent. PPOs and CDH plan increases remain steady with last year's hikes.

Said John Zern, Aon Consulting's U.S. Health & Benefits Practice director: "While we're seeing a slight decrease in the trend rates, it's still at double digits, and this year, it's compounded by a struggling economy, lower wage increases, and in some cases, salary freezes."

Here's Aon's press release offering more details.

And here's the curve ball, thrown by Joseph Antos, an economist with the Washington, D.C.-based American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research. Antos, who was not involved with the Aon study, suggests companies could deal with rising health care costs by limiting pay increases. Antos told the AP:

"Employer contributions are not gifts, they're part of total compensation. And if you end up having a more expensive health benefit that your employer pays most of, that means that your wages aren't going to up as fast as they would have."

-- Robert Trigaux, Times Business Columnist

[Last modified: Tuesday, June 1, 2010 11:25am]


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