While employers' healthcare costs are continuing to rise at steady double-digit rates, cost increases for prescription-drug programs are slowing, according to a new report by benefits consulting firm Buck Consultants. The report analyzed survey responses from 80 large health insurers and benefits administrators in the third and fourth quarters of 2005. Data from the fourth-quarter showed projected 2006 rate increases of 11.8% for HMOs and 12.7% for PPOs, up slightly from third-quarter projections of 11.3% and 12.4%, respectively. But projected rate increases for prescription-drug programs slowed between the periods, to 11.1% from 12.8%. "The survey shows a gradual decrease in drug trends that began about four years ago," Michael Jacobs, Buck Consultants' national pharmacy practice leader, said in a news release. "Drug trends, which have traditionally been higher than medical trends, are now almost the same."
[ via Modern Healthcare ]