W(h)ither thy health benefits?

The headlines read that CFOs are having trouble accessing credit.

What will that mean for health benefits?

A survey of American CFOs and comptrollers from Grant Thornton has found that over half of CFOs have seen credit costs increase. 2/3 find credit harder to come-by than in 2007.

One in two CFOs think the U.S. economy will remain the same over the next 6 months.

The No. 1 pricing pressure concern is employee benefits — 55% are most concerned about benefits, including health and pensions.

In the short term — six months out — 23% of employers expect their headcount to decrease.

Jane’s Hot Points: Getting credit flowing is Job 1 for the Treasury Secretary (separate from stock market woes). Even with the possible infusion of cash into the U.S. market (with similar moves by European and G7 banks under consideration), the credit crisis won’t be reversed immediately. CFOs anticipate the pricing pressures plaguing their daily businesses will persist for at least six months.

As health benefit designs return to their drawing boards, we can expect two impacts: (1) some employers forced to drop the health benefit; and (2), further erosion of the benefit, in the form of insureds bearing more costs.

That is, if the employee happens to land in the 77% who will be lucky enough to keep his