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Big Changes Ahead For Health-Care Benefits

That's according to a survey of employers by Towers Watson and the National Business Group of Health. Some of the changes are ones that many workers once considered unthinkable. For instance, of the 512 surveyed companies, only 23 percent say they are very confident that they will continue to offer health-care benefits 10 years from now-down from a peak of 73 percent in 2007, the researchers say.

Also, while only 3 percent are somewhat to very likely to discontinue health care plans for active employees in 2014 or 2015 without providing a financial subsidy, 45 percent say they are somewhat to very likely to offer coverage to only a portion of their workforce. As for the other workers, the employers say they would direct them to the state health-care exchanges.

And plan on seeing more carrot-and-stick approaches, too. The carrots will include providing workers with more service, pricing and quality information; decision-making support tools; and various incentives. The sticks will include adding penalties or achievement standards related to unhealthy life choices. Who knows, at least some of those shifts could turn into opportunities for agents who decide to sell health insurance via the developing health care exchanges.

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