Human Resources News & Insights

Traditional cost control isn’t enough: 5 ways your peers are tackling health care now

While traditional strategies and plan design tweaks are still in play, employers everywhere are realizing they need to do more to fight the increasing costs of company sponsored health insurance.

That’s one of the main takeaways from the National Business Group on Health’s (NBGH) new report.

The report found that healthcare costs are slated to top $14,000 per employee in 2018. As a result, employers are combining design changes — such as high-deductible plans and wellness initiatives — with greater access to cost-efficient services — such as telehealth and Centers of Excellence (COEs).

As employers enter the arduous process of open enrollment, it’s worthwhile to see what their peers are doing to combat healthcare cost issues and discuss those moves with their brokers and providers.

Trends to watch

Here are the healthcare trends outlined in the NBGH report:

1. Telehealth: Almost all (96%) of employers that allow telehealth will make this option available to employees. And 56% of companies are planning to offer this for behavioral services — more than double the percentage of employers that did so in 2017.

2. Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs): With confidence in ACOs ability to improve healthcare quality, 21% of firms plan to promote this option in 2018. What’s more, NBGH findings suggest that number could increase to two-third of organizations by 2020.

3. Employer health centers: The majority (54%) of companies will offer either on-site or near-site health centers in 2018. Reason: Employers have seen major ROI in reduced absenteeism and presenteeism when this option is added.

4. Centers of Excellence (COEs). When it comes to specific procedures — such as transplants or orthopedic surgery — 88% plan to use COEs in 2018. COEs are healthcare providers who are selected to perform certain specialized procedures because of their expertise, outcomes and favorable financial arrangements.

5. Value-based benefit design: Around 40% of employers now have some type of benefit design that allows employees to reduce their cost-sharing or premiums by taking proactive steps to manage chronic conditions or seek higher quality, more efficient care.

These strategies are meant to address not only cost issues but also education gaps for employees. Of the non-traditional healthcare strategies, Brian Marcotte, the NBGH president and CEO, said:

“One of the most interesting findings from the survey is that employers are focused on enhancing the employee experience. For example, there is a big increase in the number of employers offering decision support, concierge services and tools to help employees navigate the healthcare system. The complexity of the system and proliferation of new entrants has made it difficult for employees to fully understand their benefit programs, treatment options and where to go for care.”

Support, second opinions and utilization

Some other key highlights from the report:

  • 66% of employers will offer medical decision support and second opinion services in 2018 (up from 47% this year).
  • 40% of employers will offer a consumer-directed health plan (CDHP)  as the only plan option in 2018 (up from 35% this year), and
  • 70% of employers plan to use aggressive utilization management tools to combat skyrocketing specialty pharmacy costs.


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