Popularity of consumer-directed plans, wellness programs grows among employers

Employers increasingly are providing consumer-directed health plans (CDHP) and wellness programs to their employees, according to a new survey from Mercer.

Mercer surveyed more than 2,800 employers with at least 10 employees, finding enrollment in CDHPs rose from 16 percent in 2012 to 18 percent this year--the same percentage of covered employees who are enrolled in HMOs. In the Midwest, CDHP enrollment (27 percent) is now more than double that of HMOs (10 percent).

The affordability of these plans is likely driving the continued shift among companies toward CDHPs. The average cost of employer coverage in a CDHP, when it's coupled with a health savings account ($8,482 per employee), is 17 percent lower than a PPO plan ($10,196) and 20 percent less than an HMO ($10,612).

What's more, Mercer found almost 66 percent of large employers and about 33 percent of small companies expect to offer CDHPs to their workers in the next three years.

Other surveys have found employers may soon only offer CDHPs while they move most of their workers to exchanges, FierceHealthPayer previously reported.

Another trend the Mercer survey found is employers think wellness programs can help slow rising medical costs. Not only are more companies offering employee wellness programs, they're also providing financial incentives to encourage participation. Fifty-two percent of large employers now offer financial motivation alongside their wellness programs, up from 48 percent in 2012 and 33 percent in 2011.

Employers also are using incentives for their employees to achieve certain outcomes. This year, 20 percent of large employers used outcomes-based incentives, an increase from 18 percent in 2012, Mercer found.

The rise in wellness programs coincides nicely with an increase in consumers who say they're willing to undergo medical tests and lifestyle monitoring, including blood pressure checks and cholesterol tests, by insurers in exchange for lower premiums.

To learn more:
- here's the Mercer survey

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