Almost 10 percent of companies have implemented a spousal surcharge

Almost 10 percent of employers have implemented a spousal surcharge to help cut health care costs, according to a 2016 report from bnchmrk, a provider of benchmarking solutions for employee benefits. A spousal surcharge is when an employer charges employees more for health care if they want to cover spouses who can get benefits from their own employer. The survey of 1,974 employers found that technology firms (17 percent), health care companies (15 percent), and the manufacturing sector (13 percent) are more likely to add a spousal surcharge than companies in other sectors.

According to bnchmrk, adding a spousal surcharge is a middle ground between fully covering spouses, which can be expensive, and cutting them from the health plans altogether, which is not well received by employees. Charging for working spouses is effective at lowering costs because it has a dual effect, bnchmrk noted. First, it lowers overall gross cost by incentivizing spouses to stay off their health plan. Second, it shrinks the net employer cost by raising employee paycheck deductions for those spouses that choose to stay on the plan and pay the surcharge.

The study also found a strong correlation between spousal surcharge prevalence and company size. At 14 percent, larger companies are more likely to require working spouses to pay more for their benefits. Only 4 percent of companies with less than 500 employees do.


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