By Clive Riddle, March 3, 2017
DirectPath and CEB have just released their 2017 Medical Plan Trends and Observations Report, “which analyzed more than 975 employee benefit health plans, highlights the top ten trends in employers’ 2017 health care strategies across three categories – plan design, cost savings mechanisms and care options.”
The 11-page report tells us that “employers are incorporating solutions like health savings accounts (HSAs), wellness incentives, price transparency tools and alternative care options to reduce costs.”
The ten trends they discuss include:
1. Annual Deductibles Leveling Out
2. Marginal Change in Prevalence of HDHPs
3. HSAs Continue to Remain Popular
4. Specialty Medication to Become More Expensive
5. Contribution Surcharge Amounts Vary
6. Wellness Incentives Continue to Increase in Prevalence and Amounts
7. Plan Comparison Tools Lead to More Savings
8. Alternative Care Options Remain Affordable
9. Barriers to Employee Use of Telemedicine
10. Focus on Higher Quality Health Care
Major findings from their surveys cited in the report include:
· 51 percent of employers offer a price transparency tool to help employees choose the service or product best for them, and 18 percent plan to add such tools in the next three years
· In a review of price comparison requests, these services resulted in an average employee savings of $173 per procedure and average employer savings of $409 per procedure.
· While the percentage of organizations with spousal employee contribution surcharges remained static (26 percent in 2017, as compared to 27 percent in 2016), average total surcharge amounts increased dramatically to $152 per month, a more than 40 percent increase from 2016.
· More than a third of organizations offer telemedicine, but over 55 percent of employees in these companies are not aware of telemedicine availability, and nearly 60 percent of employees who have telemedicine programs do not feel they are easy to access, according to a separate survey recently conducted by CEB.
· The average cost of specialty drugs that treat rare and complex conditions increased by more than 30 percent for employers surveyed.
· 67 percent of employers surveyed offer HSAs, compared to 15% offering Health Reimbursement Arrangements (HRAs). Employer contributions to HSAs increased almost 10 percent.
· 58 percent of 2017 employer plans offer some type of wellness incentives, up from 50 percent in 2016.
While we’re on the subject of wellness incentives, Humana just released their 2017 Humana Wellness Trends Report, a 20-page document that discusses five trends:
1. The “connected experience 2.0” revolutionizing wellness strategies: “…As wellness programs begin to integrate these devices and employers gain access to the data, employers will gain insight into what’s driving organizational health costs and how to resolve them.”
2. Older workforce leads to health, caregiving burdens: “…The U.S. workforce is getting older and retiring later due to the stress of financial burdens, caring for older loved ones and increasing health care costs.”
3. Financial stress affects productivity: “….Americans identify money as their top stressor, which can reduce employee productivity and contribute to absenteeism, presenteeism and poor health. Research states 37 percent of full-time employees deal with financial issues while working.
4. Poor sleep leading to errors, low morale: “…Among workers age 30 and older, 74 percent say lack of sleep affects their work performance.”
5. Workers benefit from mindfulness techniques: “…Research has found a mindful approach may help ease the “effects of stress, anxiety and other negative emotions.”