Open enrollment - employees finding the choice a lot different this year..higher deductibles..change in types of plans with employers watching the bottom line with health care...many workers are starting to opt out of employer health care plans as a result...BD

This year's open enrollment season will come with yet another jump in health care costs for Dallas-area companies and another shift of more of those costs to employees. Employees at companies from American Airlines to Wal-Mart should brace themselves for greater insurance costs and higher deductibles.

In a new twist, some employers are even veering from the tradition of extending coverage to employees' spouses if those spouses are covered by their own employer's plans. An increasing number is either denying such spouses coverage or charging extra.

This is leading many employees to drop coverage. "Increasing employee contributions, deductibles, co-pays and premiums are causing many workers to opt out of their employers' health plans," said David Guilmette, a Towers Perrin consultant.

Wal-Mart, the world's largest retailer and the biggest employer in North Texas, with 32,500 local workers, has become a local advocate for high-deductible plans.  Wal-Mart offers its 1.3 million U.S. workers plans with deductibles ranging from $350 to $1,000, as well as ultra-high deductible plans of up to $6,000, Mr. Emerick said in May.

Meanwhile, Nortel Networks Corp., the telecommunications giant with 4,000 local employees, is one of those making it harder for spouses to piggyback on their employee health plans. Nortel sent letters to employees this month telling them they will have to pay an additional $50 per pay period if their spouses or domestic partners sign up despite having access to employer-provided medical coverage at work.

Health costs squeeze workers | Dallas Morning News | News for Dallas, Texas | Business Casual


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