Employers with lower health-care cost increases for 2004 more often encourage workers to take responsibility for their health-care decisions, according to a recent study by Watson Wyatt & Co., Washington, D.C.

Those companies who encourage workers regarding health expect a median 7 percent increase in health care costs this year. Conversely, companies experiencing high cost increases do less to engage workers in making cost-effective health care decisions and expect a median cost increase of 17 percent.

“Employers are beginning to recognize there's a new reality that requires new choices,” said Helen Darling, president of the National Business Group on Health, Washington, D.C. “Employers and employees must work together to control health benefit costs. The only viable way for employers to break the log jam may be to help workers become more educated consumers of health care.”

Watson Wyatt & Co. is an international human capital consulting firm that provides services in the areas of employee benefits, human capital strategies and related technology solutions.

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