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Trends in Employer Health Benefits

Large employers are making changes to mitigate rising health care costs.

I am signing up for next year’s company health insurance, and I’m wondering if the cost increases and coverage changes are typical. Is there anything I can do to save money? -- M.C., Reston, Va.

Large employers anticipate that health care costs will rise by about 6% in 2017, and they’re making changes to manage those expenses—boosting premiums, increasing out-of-pocket costs, shrinking provider networks and adding restrictions on drug coverage. But they’re also introducing new programs to help you save money.

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The median deductible is $1,425 for employee-only plans and $2,900 for family coverage, according to the National Business Group on Health (NBGH). More than one-third of employers will offer only a high-deductible plan in 2017. Many will contribute to health savings accounts for employees with those plans. A typical contribution would be $600 for employees with self-only coverage or $1,100 for families.

Employers are also expanding web tools to let you compare costs for drugs, procedures and tests. And you can save money with telehealth, or remotely provided health care, now offered by almost all plans. For example, a consultation with a doctor by video for an upper respiratory infection might cost $40, compared with $700 for a visit to the ER, $150 for urgent care and $100 for an office visit, says Brian Marcotte, president of the NBGH

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