Benefits

Employers Plan to Step Up Health Benefit Cost Management

Employers are pursuing a wider array of approaches to reduce health care cost and risk—both through improved program efficiencies and members’ health engagement, Willis Towers Watson finds.

By Rebecca Moore editors@plansponsor.com | August 02, 2017
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Employers expect health care costs to increase by 5.5% in 2018, up from a 4.6% increase in 2017, according to the 22nd annual Best Practices in Health Care Employer Survey by Willis Towers Watson.

In the face of these continued cost pressures, including employee affordability, employers plan to step up cost management strategies over the next three years.

Employers are pursuing a wider array of approaches to reduce health care cost and risk—both through improved program efficiencies and members’ health engagement. These areas of focus will include encouraging patients to use preferred providers for health care delivery, e.g., telemedicine, centers of excellence, and high-performance networks; emphasizing better outcomes and cost savings in high-priority clinical conditions, such as diabetes, musculoskeletal health and mental health; and selecting partners based on their ability to achieve demonstrably improved outcomes, as well as hold the line on cost. Employers also aim to enhance employee engagement by increasing choice of benefit plans, improving decision support, and offering health wearables and mobile apps.

Seventy-eight percent of employers currently use telemedicine for office visits, with another 16% planning to or considering to by 2019. Forty-four percent currently use centers of excellence within health plans, with another 33% planning to or considering to by 2019. And, 15% use high-performance networks, with another 36% planning to or considering to by 2019.

Responding employers select health benefit carriers and vendors based on competitiveness of negotiated provider discounts (94%); competitiveness of vendor’s network access (94%); and competitiveness of vendor’s total cost of care (92%).

NEXT: Curbing pharmacy costs and elevating participant engagement

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