Employers Project No Change in the Growth of Health Benefit Costs

Large U.S. Employers Project No Change in the Growth of Health Benefit Costs in 2017, More to Offer Telehealth

Health benefit cost increases at large U.S. employers are expected to remain at 6% in 2017, despite a large increase in pharmacy costs, particularly for specialty drugs. This information comes from a recent annual survey conducted by the National Business Group on Health (NBGH).

The survey also indicates that employees will not see major increases to health care costs; premiums are expected to rise by 5%, roughly half the predicted premium increase for the average public exchange health plan. The survey forecasts a dramatic increase in the number of large employers offering telehealth benefits to their employees in 2017.

“Controlling health benefits costs remains a high priority for large employers,” said Brian Marcotte, president and CEO of the National Business Group on Health. “While employers have been able to keep increases in check for the past few years, costs are still running at more than twice the rate of inflation and general wage increases, thereby threatening affordability. These cost increases, while stable, are both unsustainable and unacceptable.”

According to Marcotte, employers’ efforts to contain health benefit costs have moved away from plan design “to optimizing how health care is accessed and delivered. That translates into expanded telehealth services, more Centers of Excellence options and optional selective network choices that focus on providing higher quality health care.”

The survey found that 90% of large employers will make telehealth services available to employees in states where it is allowed in 2017, a sharp increase from 70% this year. By 2020, virtually all large employer respondents will offer telemedicine. Employee utilization of telehealth services remains low, but is increasing steadily.

Eight in ten large employers (80%) plan to offer nurse coaching for care and condition management, while 72% will offer nurse coaching for lifestyle management. Nearly two-thirds will provide employees with self-service decision-making tools to help them become better health care consumers.

The Large Employers’ 2017 Health Plan Design Survey was conducted between May and June 2016. A total of 133 large employers participated in the survey. Collectively, respondents represent a wide range of industry sectors and offer coverage to more than 15 million employees and their dependents.

To read more about the results of this study, click here. 

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