- More U.S. employers will focus on how healthcare is delivered and paid for in 2018, according to the National Business Group on Health (NBGH)'s latest Large Employers’ 2018 Health Care Strategy and Plan Design Survey. Employees should have access to more health services, including telemedicine and on-site health centers, during open enrollment this year without facing significant increases.
- Employers in the survey predict a 5% hike in medical and pharmacy benefits costs in 2018 for the fifth straight year in a row. An estimate of this year's total healthcare costs is $13,482 per employee, which is expected to rise to $14,156 in 2018. Employers' share of the cost will be 70% and employees will cover about 30%, or about $4,400, next year.
- The survey also found that 96% of employers will use telehealth services. Meanwhile, the use of Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs) could increase 100% by 2020, and 54% of employers will provide onsite or near site health centers next year.
While stagnation in Washington, D.C. puts a hold on serious healthcare system reform, smart employers are moving on, looking for more ways to curb healthcare costs. The shift pertaining to how health services are delivered and how they're covered puts the focus squarely on patient care — right where it belongs.
“Employers are recognizing that traditional cost control techniques alone aren’t able to reduce costs to the point where they are no longer a drain on the bottom line,” NBGH president Brian Marcotte said in a statement. "As employers look ahead, we expect them to increasingly focus on value purchasing opportunities within the delivery system and improving the experience for health care consumers."
Healthcare tech is a rather broad term that encompasses several forms of innovations at once, not the least of which is telemedicine and other changes to healthcare delivery. The rise of programs like IBM Watson, which utilize big data in the form of patient claims information to improve care paths, create a more efficient system that is also far more personal for the patient. Wearable tech, meanwhile, has invaded benefits programs in an effort to encourage preventative wellness.
Further on the horizon, employers should pay attention to other trends, like reduced no-shows among patients and drones that could fill gaps in healthcare infrastructure. No matter the innovation, the end goal is the same: keeping healthcare costs in check by making services more cost-efficient with better outcomes. Those efforts, by all accounts, are far more likely to succeed due to the efforts of private sector innovation.
Not to be understated among the NBGH's findings, specialty pharmacy costs were cited by employers as the top driver for their healthcare spend for the second year in a row. Pharmaceuticals in general have been a strong pain point for consumers and benefits managers alike. It may be time for employers to evaluate pharmacy benefits managers (PBMs) with extra scrutiny.