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Rising health costs are prompting more U.S. workers to become more proactive in reducing their own spending on medical care.According to global consulting firm Watson Wyatt, during the last open enrollment 19% of employees are willing to pay higher premiums to keep deductibles and co-pays lower and more predictable. In 2007, 38% were willing to do so.In addition, a Watson Wyatt employee perspectives on health care survey finds that 66% of employees are taking steps to improve personal care.“Workers will continue to look for avenues to save money in tight times,” said Cathy Tripp, national leader of consumerism at Watson Wyatt. “In the current financial climate, employers stand to gain from reinforcing messages on preventive care, wellness resources and the importance of following prescribed drug regimens. There are a number of behaviors that, if embraced today, will lead to substantial health cost savings in the long term.”Yet, despite the opportunity to save money, the survey found that some workers are taking actions that could lead to higher costs in the future. For instance, the survey found that 17% avoided a recommended doctor’s visit to save costs. Similarly, 17% did not fill a prescription or skipped doses of prescribed medicine.Cost saving steps are still trending up with 14% of employees seeking more affordable treatment options, 8% looking for inexpensive care providers and 2% negotiating lower prices with their doctor.According to the survey, the economy and higher health costs are taking a toll on the long-term financial security of many workers. This year, health costs are forcing many employees to decrease their retirement savings plan contributions, and 20% of workers indicate that their ability to save for retirement is reduced because of health costs. Also, more workers acknowledge difficulty paying for basic needs, depleted personal savings or needing to borrow money.“The health-wealth connection is more clear than ever, as pressures from high health costs continue to pose challenges to both companies and employees,” said Tripp. “Open communication and clear, concise educational tools are effective ways to help employees realize the many steps they can take to manage costs without compromising care.”–[email protected]

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