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Survey finds health-care costs rising in the Southeast

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Health-care costs continued to rise for families in the Southeast, according to a survey by Lynchburg-based Scott Benefit Services.

The company’s 2016 Mid-Market Benefits Benchmarking Survey found that health-care costs in the region increased for a family of  four for the ninth consecutive year, with medical expenditures up 8 percent in Virginia and 10 percent in North Carolina.

Annual health-care costs nationally rose to $25,826 for a family of four in 2016. That cost is expected to hit  $30,632 by 2020.

The survey found that an increasing number of employers are using high-deductible health plans (HDHPs) to better manage financial risks.

HDHPs have lower premiums and higher deductibles than traditional health insurance plans.

In Virginia, 61 percent of employers surveyed are offering a HDHPs, compared to 41 percent nationally. An additional 13 percent of the Virginia employers are considering transitioning to a HDHP.

In North Carolina, 40 percent of surveyed employers currently are offering HDHPs with another 15 percent evaluating HDHPs as a future option.

The survey also found that nationally 12.7 million people are participating in government-sponsored exchanges. Data shows that 2016 Affordable Care Act premiums are rising by an average of 11 percent.

Also, more companies are moving toward self-insured options. Companies using this strategy are saving an average of 5 to 10 percent over traditional plans. In 2016, 40 percent of Virginia companies surveyed have self-insured plans with a higher percentage in North Carolina at 44 percent

Employers offering wellness programs in Virginia and North Carolina exceed the national average by 2 to 4 percent. Improvement of an employee's health continues to be the primary reason that companies surveyed offer a wellness program, followed by the need to reduce health-care costs.

Scott Benefit Services had conducted the survey for 12 years. The survey involves about 250 mid-market companies in North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia, and 3,000 companies nationally.

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