- The American Benefits Council has announced its participation in the Consumers First alliance, which seeks to remedy the problem of soaring healthcare costs.
- Consumers First has released a "call to action" paper criticizing the "economic distortions in health care that often lead to poor outcomes, increased costs, and destabilized coverage and financial security."
Medicare-for-all is sometimes touted as a solution to both rising health care costs and employers' substantial health care expenditures on employees' behalf, but the Council says employers are generally happy with their role in the system and want it to continue, according to a story in the Washington Post.
Regardless of whether employers are satisfied with their entrenched role as provider of employee healthcare benefits, they are always looking for creative ways to reduce costs and improve services. Some big employers are taking an activist role in improving the overall U.S. healthcare delivery system. They're trying out new payment and delivery models, including accountable care organizations, performance networks and centers of excellence.
AC Wellness, Apple's wellness clinic, has hired more than 40 nurse practitioners, nutritionists, exercise specialists, and other wellness experts to provide on-site care to employees at its headquarters in Cupertino, California. And Microsoft is offering its Seattle-area employees a new Health Connect Plan designed to better integrate medical services and insurance coverage.
Last year, Berkshire Hathaway, JPMorgan Chase and Amazon joined forces to create a new collaborative healthcare organization. Noted physician and writer Atul Gawande, who was named CEO of the new organization, told the Aspen Institute that "employer-based care is broken," adding that emerging forms of employment, including the gig economy and independent contracting, have created coverage gaps for many Americans.
But how are regular, non-behemoth employers working to control healthcare costs? The top method, identified in a report from the International Foundation of Employee Benefit plans, is case management services that flag possible barriers to employees receiving the best care; these were used by 71% of surveyed employers.
Other popular strategies include 24-hour nurse hotlines, telemedicine, prior authorization requirements and healthcare claims utilization analysis to identify employees' top health concerns. Telemedicine in particular is on the rise, with 64% of surveyed employers offering it in 2018.