Employers now more likely to offer health plans to compete after years of stagnation
- For the first time since 2008, the number of private-sector employers across all sizes that offer health benefits has gone up, according to a new report from the Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI). The report said that the increase may be credited to "a strengthening economy, lower unemployment rates, and/or relatively low premium increases."
- The report showed that the percentage of large employers offering health plans increased from 92.5% to 96.3% between 2014 and 2016, and the percentage of small employers, those with fewer than 10 employees, rose from 21.7% to 23.5% between 2016 and 2017.
- EBRI said that while the rate at which businesses offered health plans trended down until 2017, more workers have been becoming eligible for health coverage since 2015. As the amount of workers eligible for health coverage in 2017 (76.8%) heavily outweighed the percentage of employers offering coverage, it is reasonable to conclude that workers have been moving to jobs offering health coverage, the report said.
A U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) report released in March showed that employer-sponsored health benefits were available to 69% of private-sector employees, and that 89% of state and local government workers have access to health coverage. The percentage of employees eligible for health coverage is the largest for the first time in six years, as reported by The Wall Street Journal. The exact number of employers offering health plans and that of workers who are eligible for coverage might differ from source to source, but a majority of employers offering health coverage is still, as the EBRI stated, good news for workers overall.
As more employers offer health plans, they will naturally continue to look for ways to control healthcare costs. Some large corporations, like Intel, Cisco Systems, Walmart and Boeing, are taking a bold step by bypassing insurance companies and negotiating prices directly with healthcare providers. Other cost-cutting strategies include offering second-opinion services, focusing on healthcare outcomes and preventive care and finding ways to change the payment and delivery of healthcare services through performance networks, accountable care organizations (ACOs) and centers of excellence. Generally, employers are getting more directly involved in healthcare management, especially as healthcare benefits remain a key talent attractor.