(Reuters) – Health insurance costs for employers rose the most in more than a decade this year as Americans resumed non-emergency procedures delayed earlier due to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a survey released Monday.
Benefits firm Mercer’s survey of businesses that employ approximately 118 million people showed that the average cost of employer-sponsored health insurance per employee jumped 6.3% this year to $ 14,542 – the biggest increase since 2010.
The increase was only 3.4% in 2020 when the pandemic strained hospital capacity and forced people to postpone elective procedures.
âI think (catch-up care) is definitely part of the cost factor,â Kate Brown, head of Mercer’s Center for Healthcare Innovation, told Reuters.
Brown said several other factors, including claims related to the treatment of the long-term effects of COVID-19 and pricing of specialty drugs, could also be driving the rise in costs and could continue until in 2022.
The survey, which included 1,745 public and private employers, showed companies expect a “fairly typical” cost increase of 4.4% next year.
But most of them were unwilling to try and cut the rising costs as they double their efforts to make physical and mental health care more affordable for employees facing the stress of the nearly two-fold pandemic. year.
Tracy Watts, national head of U.S. health policy at Mercer, said generous health benefits could help companies attract and retain staff in a tight labor market.
Adding or expanding programs to increase access to behavioral health care was among the top three priorities for all large employers, according to the survey.
âIt has clearly become very important throughout the pandemic that mental health is a basic need for everyone and it has become a priority for most employers over the past two years,â said Brown.
(Reporting by Amruta Khandekar; Editing by Aditya Soni)