Every year around this time, analysts, consultancies, and human capital researchers publish a barrage of annual reports on employer-sponsored health benefits. We are keeping a close eye on movement and trends in this space, and there’s certainly no shortage of reading material or data. We will continue to help our insurer customers meet the evolving needs of the group market, and we’re happy to share with you some key findings from a sampling of this year’s collection.

Recurring themes are:

  • The downward trend in the number of individuals covered by employer-sponsored insurance (ESI) has continued, though the decrease is slowing.
  • Medical costs continue to rise and so do premiums. While rates of increase are slowing currently, many expect them to pick back up again in the near future.
  • Employers and insurers alike are turning to new products, tools, cost arrangements, and benefit designs to drive down costs, increase transparency, and bring individual control to the forefront.
  • All discussion of trends and shifts in the ESI market includes mention of the increasing number of employers considering a defined contribution model via a private exchange solution.

The National Institute for Health Care Management (NIHCM) published “Employer Sponsored Health Insurance: Recent Trends and Future Directions” in October, which focuses on how employer actions and decisions are increasingly based on improving the value and impact of the health benefits they provide.

Aon published their “2013 Health Care Survey – New Choices. Better Results” recently, which compiles survey data from approximately 800 employers on their current practices, priorities, and future plans for their organizations.

Kaiser Family Foundation/Health Research & Educational Trust (HRET)’s “2013 Employer Health Benefits Survey” was released in August. It’s a deep dive into current data on premiums, employee contributions, plan selections, cost sharing, and overall benefit offerings.

Economic Policy Institute’s Elise Gould published “Public insurance is increasingly crucial to American families even as employer-sponsored health coverage ends its steady decline.” Gould’s article focuses on the connection between changes in the labor market, ESI as a primary provider of health coverage, coverage for children, and the role of public insurance.

Mercer’s “National Survey of Employer-Sponsored Health Plans” was announced last week and will be published in the spring This overview leans heavily toward the employer perspective, including resulting benefit changes and plans for the next five years.

The Society for Human Resource Management’s (SHRM) “2013 Employee Benefits – An Overview of Employee Benefits Offerings in the U.S.” reviews trends and data around benefits packages as a whole. The health care data includes detailed statistics (in some cases year over year) on coverage included, distribution of plan types, and dependent coverage.