In a normal year, the American Academy of Actuaries outlines the factors driving health insurance costs for the next plan year. However, things are tricky this year due to the coronavirus.
Yes, COVID-19 cases are resulting in some sky-high hospital bills, such as a Seattle man whose two-month stay cost $1.1 million. Yet, at the same time, there’s reduced demand for doctor’s visits and nonemergency hospital services.
However, rates are expected to rise due to the uncertainty of it all, according to the Academy’s brief.
But firms need to avoid a short-term fix – raising copays and deductibles, suggest healthcare experts. Studies show that passing costs onto workers can lead to them skipping preventive care, which can exacerbate chronic conditions.
2021 healthcare strategies
According to Vivian Lee, author of The Long Fix: Solving America’s Health Care Crisis with Strategies that Work for Everyone, firms should look beyond 2021 to improve employee health in the following ways:
• Challenge healthcare providers: Take back pain, for example. Does your provider tend to order MRIs, as opposed to more cost-efficient care, such as rest and physical therapy? Firms can also join cooperatives to help them enhance purchasing power.
• Implement more virtual solutions: Look for technology that combines telehealth and chat features to connect employees to health coaches and physicians. Virtual chronic care solutions are also gaining traction with employers, such as a Bluetooth-enabled glucose monitor for diabetics.
• Partner with hospitals, physicians and labs: More and more employers are choosing “direct to employer” health care by negotiating with local doctors and hospitals to control costs. Also, small firms have negotiated successfully with testing facilities such as LabCorp.