More than half (56%) of U.S. employers have increased employee contributions to healthcare coverage for spouses, while another 25% plan to do so by 2018, according to new research by Willis Towers Watson.

Its annual Willis Towers Watson/National Business Group on Health Best Practices in Health Care Employer Survey found that the use of spousal surcharges when other employer-provided coverage is available is expected to more than double by 2018, from 27% to 56%.

The average spousal surcharge across all employers surveyed is $1,200 per year.

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The survey also found that a small number (3%) of respondents don’t offer or have eliminated subsidies altogether for spousal coverage, with another 10% planning to by 2018.

“Given the high cost of healthcare, companies no longer want their plans to be spouse magnets, which may incur thousands of dollars a year in additional healthcare expenses when spouses have access to coverage through their own employers,” said Randall Abbott, senior health and benefit strategist at Willis Towers Watson.

“Assessing the actual costs for spouses and determining how to best manage them can help create more efficient healthcare plans and avoid or reduce additional across-the-board increases in employee contributions.”

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While not as prevalent, the survey found that a similar trend has emerged in healthcare coverage for employees’ children. Less than half (46%) of respondents have increased employee contributions for children’s healthcare benefits more than for employee-only coverage, with another 15% planning to by 2018.

Survey results show total healthcare costs (employer and employee) reached $12,041 per employee per year in 2015 and are expected to rise nearly 5% to $12,643 in 2016.

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Copyright © 2020 Transcontinental Media G.P. Originally published on benefitscanada.com