Businesses that are eager to hold down fast-growing outlays for employe health benefits increasingly are getting their workers to share in the costs of health insurance premiums and medical bills, according to a survey of 1,115 employers by Wyatt Co., a leading actuarial firm.
Although attention recently has focused on the federal government's efforts to raise beneficiaries' out-of-pocket outlays under Medicare and Medicaid as a way of curbing government spending, the 1984 Wyatt survey shows that businesses, which forked out $82 billion in 1983 for health insurance premiums and benefits, are moving in the same direction:
* Only 39 percent of firms with comprehensive major medical policies still pay the entire premium for the policy. In 1980, 52 percent of the firms paid the entire premium.
* Deductibles -- the amount of medical bills the worker must pay out of pocket before the insurance coverage kicks in -- have risen sharply. In 1984, 51 percent of the firms with comprehensive major medical plans had deductibles of $100 or more, compared with 6 percent in 1980.
* In 1984, deductibles were applied to all types of medical benefits, including hospital and surgical, by 79 percent of the firms with the comprehensive policies. That compares with 49 percent in 1980, when a large portion of the plans had no deductible for hospital benefits and, in some cases, surgical benefits.
Dr. Sylvester Schieber, director of Wyatt's research and information services, said the changes clearly reflect employers' efforts "to contain an ever-growing burden" of health-care costs for their employes. Schieber said the $82 billion annual bill for health care for all private firms in the United States is growing substantially each year.
The study also found that employers are using a variety of cost-containment devices in an effort to hold down the doctor and hospital bills for their insured employes. For example, 80 percent have pre-admission testing before a patient goes to a hospital and 58 percent have "second-opinion" provisions prior to surgery.