Shrinking Employer Health Care Benefits

Good explanations in an article in todays NY Times about how employers are moving to high deductible health plans (HDHPs).  This transition is happening more slowly than predicted by many advocates over the past few years - but these plans are growing more rapidly than any other plan design.  Two large employers, Nissan and Delta Airlines, are offering only high deductible plans, while most employers offer a choice.   Employees are likely to find that HDHPs work well for single people in good health, and they theoretically work well for families with overwhelming medical expenses (that exceed annual maximums).   There is some danger that if the healthy low-cost employees leave traditional health plans, these could become prohibitively expensive. 

The idea of HDHPs in general was that employers would fund an associated and portable health savings account - but data suggests that less than 1/4 of people on HDHPs have money to roll over from year to year.   Many employers are also not funding the HSA.

Obama's health care team is not enthusiastic about further consumer cost-sharing, but consultants warn that if employers had known how dire the economy would look months ago when they planned their 2009 benefits, they would likely have chosen to push more costs to their employees.