- Overall cost increases of healthcare benefits will hold steady at 6%, the National Business Group on Health (NGBH) revealed in a new survey. Most employers expect increases to hold only at 5% due to shifts in plan design.
- However, Brian Marcotte, president and CEO of the NBGH, noted that even though increases are holding steady, yearly increases of 5% or 6% are "not sustainable" and still threaten long-term affordability. In turn, many employers are shifting their attention to healthcare delivery to lower costs.
- Many of the increases are being driven by a surge in specialty pharmaceuticals. For the first time in the annual survey, most employers consider specialty pharmaceuticals "the highest driver of health costs and are taking steps to curb them."
The survey takes into account health benefit plan designs that large employers have already established for 2017, as most large companies make these decisions in June the year before.
In general, the survey reveals that most employers are "shifting away" from plan design changes to reduce costs, and instead are focusing on optimizing how healthcare is accessed and delivered. Telehealth continues its strong growth, as nine in 10 employers (90%) will make telehealth services available in 2017 — a stark difference from 70% in 2016.
Reflecting decreased attention to plan design, consumer-driven healthcare plans (CDHPs) made slight gains, as 84% will offer a CDHP in 2017, up from 83% in 2016. Full-replacement of all health plans with CDHPs was considered by survey-takers to be one of the most effective tactics to control health care costs, but Marcotte noted that growth in that continued to be slow. 35% will offer only CDHPs to employees in 2017, a 2% increase over 2016.