As Open Enrollment Begins, Health Benefits May Not Change Much

Open enrollment season is here again for workers fortunate enough to have health insurance through their job.

Workers could pay 4 to 5 percent more for their health premiums next year, according to various estimates of cost increases.

That’s in line with increases in recent years, even as the pandemic continues to bring economic challenges and uncertainty for both workers and their employers. People may use more medical services in 2021 because they put off routine care this year during the pandemic shutdowns. And the costs of treating coronavirus cases continue, while the country awaits a vaccine.

Still, many employers have indicated that they are trying to avoid major changes in health benefits for next year, to avoid jarring workers already stressed by the pandemic. Some employers may absorb much of the cost increase so workers pay about the same in premiums as they do this year, said Steve Wojcik, vice president of policy with the Business Group on Health.

“Quite a number are recognizing the financial challenges employees face,” said Mr. Wojcik, whose organization represents employers on health care and benefit matters.

Of more than 1,100 employers responding to a survey by the benefits consultant Mercer since early July, more than half said they would make no changes of any kind that would reduce their costs in 2021. Just 18 percent said they would take steps to shift more costs to employees, like increasing co-payments and raising deductibles — the amount workers pay out of pocket for care before the plan starts paying.

“That’s very good news for employees,” said Tracy Watts, a senior consultant

Keep reading this article on The New York Times Your Money.

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