- Technology is helping employers save money on healthcare so that not all costs shift to workers, according to early results of a Mercer survey revealed at the 2018 HR Technology Conference & Expo in Las Vegas. Mercer predicts that the average health benefit cost per employee will rise by 4.1% in 2019.
- Mercer said this finding coincides with other signs that single-digit increases are on the horizon. In the past, employers handled increased costs by raising employee deductibles and offering less generous plans, but 44% of the 2,400 respondents in Mercer's report said they don't plan on doing either in 2019. More than half (55%) of midsize and large employers in the survey are instead using high-touch point solutions to help plan members who have specific health issues, Mercer said.
- Two other methods to address cost and engagement recommended by Mercer include: 1) using a single, fully-integrated platform to access benefits and offerings and 2) leveraging employee data for health plan insights. A majority (77%) of employers with more than 500 employees in Mercer's survey either use a data warehouse or receive data from plan vendors in order to improve their healthcare strategy.
Mercer's data is reflective of other employer surveys in the past few months, which have generally indicated that while price increases are yet again in store for employer health plans, organizations are not through looking for innovative ways to tackle the problem. Brian Marcotte, president and CEO of the National Business Group on Health, went so far as to call the approach being taken by large employers "activist."
Tracy Watts, senior partner and Mercer’s leader for health reform, used a similar term for the shift to high-touch point solutions in a statement: "The improvement in the underlying medical plan trend is encouraging because those savings are not solely coming from shifting cost to employees. It suggests that there is a 'quiet revolution' going on in organizations as they deploy more innovative health benefit strategies — and that these have started to pay off."
So employers are aware that they must be proactive about holding down healthcare costs, and many are focusing on treatment outcomes rather than treatment tallies. Other strategies include negotiating costs directly with providers instead of insurers, a focus on prevention, and inclusion of home delivery services.