WASHINGTON – As the open enrollment season kicks off, credit union staffers may find some significant changes to their benefit packages. According to Washington-based human capital consulting firm Watson Wyatt Worldwide, 2005 will be marked by the following seven benefit offering trends: * New plan designs, but fewer options. Many employers are adding consumer-driven health plans to their offerings this season, as options rather than replacements for traditional plans. Employers are also reducing the number of HMOs they offer workers, while employees who opt for preferred provider organizations (PPOs) may see smaller networks with fewer choices of doctors. Some employees, especially those in smaller companies, may have an opportunity to participate in a health savings account (HSA). HSAs allow staffers to set aside funds in pretax dollars for out-of-pocket medical expenses. * Increased focus on disease management and to encourage workers to participate in a disease management program, some employers may offer cash incentives or a discount on premiums. * Higher costs for doctor, hospital visits. * Surcharge for spousal coverage. * More voluntary benefits. * Greater access to decision-support tools. * Enhanced employer communication.

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