Entries in Employers (17)

Wednesday
Jun102015

PwC and Milliman Examination of Medical Cost Trends

by Clive Riddle, June 10, 2015

PwC projects a medical cost trend for 2016 of 6.5%, netting down to 4.5% after benefit design changes. Milliman tells us that the 2015 actual trend was 6.3%, up from 5.4% in 2014.

PwC’s Health Research Institute this week released their tenth annual Behind the Numbers report, which includes a “projection for the coming year’s medical cost trend based on analysis of medical costs in the large employer insurance market. In compiling data for 2016, HRI interviewed industry executives, health policy experts and health plan actuaries whose companies cover more than 100 million employer based members.

Milliman released their fifteenth annual Milliman Medical Index report two weeks ago, which is “an actuarial analysis of the projected total cost of healthcare for a hypothetical family of four covered by an employer-sponsored preferred provider organization (PPO) plan. Unlike many other healthcare cost reports, the MMI measures the total cost of healthcare benefits, not just the employer’s share of the costs, and not just premiums. The MMI only includes healthcare costs. It does not include health plan administrative expenses or profit loads.”

With respect to 2015, Milliman found “the cost of healthcare for a typical American family of four covered by an average employer-sponsored preferred provider organization (PPO) plan is $24,671”, up from $23,215 in 2014. The 2015 family costs works out to $2,055 on a monthly basis.

Milliman emphasizes the importance of the role the Rx costs play in the mix. They note “prescription drug costs spiked significantly, growing by 13.6% from 2014 to 2015. Growth over the previous five years averaged 6.8%. The 2015 spike resulted from the introduction of new specialty drugs as well as price increases in both brand and generic name drugs, increases in use of compound medicines, and other causes. Since the MMI’s inception in 2001, prescription drugs have increased by 9.4% on average, exceeding the 7.7% average trend for all other services. Prescription drug costs now comprise 15.9% of total healthcare spending for our family of four, up from 13.2% in 2001.”

Milliman also highlights the role of cost-sharing, citing that the “total employee cost (payroll deductions plus out-of-pocket expenses) increased by approximately 43% from 2010 to 2015, while employer costs increased by 32%. Of the $24,671 in total healthcare costs for this typical family, $10,473 is paid by the family, $6,408 through payroll deductions, and $4,065 in out-of-pocket expenses incurred at point of care.”

PwC also keys on these two issues for 2016 as well, with drugs as an inflator, and cost-sharing as a deflator of the medical trend.  PwC spotlighted two inflators of the 2016 medical trend: (1) New specialty drugs entering the market in 2015 and 2016 will continue to push health spending growth upward; and (2) Major cyber-security breaches are forcing health companies to step up investments to guard personal health data, adding to the overall cost of delivering care.

PwC notes three factors that serve to "deflate" the 2016 medical cost trend: (1) The Affordable Care Act’s looming “Cadillac tax” on high-priced plans which is accelerating cost-shifting from employers to employees to reduce costs; (2) Greater adoption of “virtual care” technology that can be more efficient and convenient than traditional medical care; and (3) New health advisers helping to steer consumers to more efficient healthcare.

PwC also comments on the longer range medical trend perspective, citing four key cost growth factors H observed over the past decade:

  • The healthcare-spending trajectory has leveled off but is not declining;
  • Cost sharing slows consumer use of health services;
  • Curtailing inpatient care lowers costs; and
  • The ACA has had minimal direct effect on employer health costs.
Friday
May292015

Positive Trends in the Land of Retail and Workplace Clinics

By Clive Riddle, May 29, 2015

Last month, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation commissioned Manatt Health to issue an excellent 25 page report:  The Value Proposition of Retail Clinics, in which they remind us that “since first emerging on the health care landscape more than 15 years ago, retail clinics are now a common feature, with 10.5 million visits occurring annually at more than 1,800 retail clinics.

The report emphasizes the potential for current and future collaborations between retail clinic organizations and health care systems, noting “to date, more than 100 partnerships between retail clinics and health systems have been formed, linking care between retail sites and primary care medical homes, expanding after-hours care options and enabling health systems to provide patients with alternatives to emergency departments (EDs). In fact, one study estimated that up to 27 percent of ED visits could be handled appropriately at retail clinics and urgent care centers…”

With respect to the growth and scope of the retail clinic market, just this month CVS  Health’s MinuteClinic announced they  “will open more than 100 new clinics this year and anticipates surpassing 1,500 clinics by 2017,” and they have reached  the cumulative “25 Million Patient Visit Milestone.“

With respect to partnerships during the past month, California Healthline discussed: ”Kaiser-Target Partnership Sign of Times” and CVS Health announced clinical affiliations with Ochsner Health System in Louisiana and the University of Mississippi Medical Center, including their Center for Telehealth.

Meanwhile, on the workplace onsite clinic front, Towers Watson this week released their 2015 Employer-Sponsored Health Care Centers Survey report, which polled  137 U.S. employers in which 105 currently offer employer-sponsored health centers, and 15 are planning to offer by 2018, and represent 4.6 million employees.

Here’s some highlights of Towers Watson’s onsite clinic findings:

  • 38% of large U.S. employers with onsite health facilities plan to add new centers over the next two years,
  • 66% expect to expand or enhance the already broad services they offer by 2018
  • Wellness programs are already available at 86% of the centers
  • Lifestyle coaching to promote and reinforce behavior changes is currently offered at 63% of the centers
  • Half of employer-sponsored health centers now offer some type of pharmacy services, up from 38% in 2012
  • 35% offer telemedicine services, with another 12% planning to in the next two years.
  • 40% have two to five centers
  • 56% have had onsite health centers for over five years
  • 55% are open before 8:00 a.m.; 32% are open after 5:00 p.m., and 16% are open on weekends
  • 64% outsource managing staffing and services at the health centers
  • 23% run the centers themselves
  • 18% use local or regional provider groups or health systems
  • 75% employers with onsite health centers calculate their ROI, up from 47% in 2012

One free resource for those monitoring activities in this sector, the Workplace & Retail Clinic Bulletin, offering free twice monthly e-newsletters.

Friday
Apr102015

Accenture Pegs 2015 Private Exchange Enrollment at 6 Million

By Clive Riddle, April 10, 2015

Accenture has released a new report on private exchange enrollment: Private Health Insurance Exchange Enrollment Doubled from 2014 to 2015, which pegs 2015 total private exhange enrollment at 6 million, up from 3 million in 2014.

Accenture forecasts that enrollment in private health insurance exchanges will grow to 12 million in 2016 and 22 million in 2017. They have gone on record projecting "total enrollment in private exchanges to ultimately surpass state and federally funded exchanges, reaching 40 million by 2018."

Here’s more on Accenture’s findings from their report:

  • Accenture concludes that midsize employers, defined as companies with 100 to 2,500 employees, contributed most to the adoption of private health exchanges increase.
  • 76 percent of consumers with employer-sponsored coverage see health insurance as a primary factor for continuing to work at their current employer
  • Accenture points out that this limits some employers’ ability to drop or defund health coverage.
  • Accenture postulates that for such employers, "private exchanges will emerge for some as a compelling model to reduce costs and administrative burden"
  • Accenture notes that private exchange enrollment is expected to accelerate in 2017 due to looming penalties for “Cadillac” Plans.
  • Accenture  also notes that market funding is growing, citing  Aetna’s bswift acquisition of bswift and Mercer’s equity investment in Benefitfocus
  • Accenture further postulates that Accenture expects that "increased compliance requirements .. will drive employers to adopt new models for managing benefits administration."
Friday
Sep192014

Humana Study on Workplace Wellness: It’s not just ROI

By Clive Riddle, September 19, 2014 

Humana has just published a 22 page report Measuring wellness: From data to insights which based on their study conducted by the Economist Intelligence Unit, examining “why companies implement workplace wellness, how data influences these programs and identifies obstacles that inhibit program participation.” The study surveyed 225 U.S.-based executives and 630 full-time employees from organizations with workplace wellness programs. 

Beth Bierbower, President of Humana’s Employer Group Segment, tells us “It’s interesting to validate that employers now view ROI as an important, but not exclusive or even primary measure of a wellness program’s success. Employers are now seeing that employee health is important beyond health care costs, it has profound impacts on productivity, retention, workplace engagement and morale.” The report states that instead of asking about ROI, “perhaps the question should be, ‘do we improve health at a reasonable price’ as opposed to ‘do we save money by doing so.’” 

Here are some key findings highlighted from the study:

  • Nearly 70 percent of executives consider their organization’s wellness program to be cost effective, even though not all of the outcomes are measurable.
  • While 86 percent of executives say improving employee health as an indirect driver of productivity, morale and engagement is their top reason for implementing a wellness program, cost factors are still important, including reducing employee health care costs (66 percent) and controlling medical claims (48 percent).
  • About 30 percent of employees rate subsidized gym memberships, onsite health and wellness facilities, and budgeted wellness activity time during business hours, as the three most important services that would motivate participation.          
  • 64 percent of employees have used fitness devices to monitor health and capture data, but only 19 percent use them regularly.         
  • Two-thirds of executives feel data collection and interpretation is the biggest challenge confronting effective workplace wellness.         
  • 53% of survey respondents say their organization collects health-related employee data as part of its wellness program
  • The biggest disconnects between executives and employees regarding their perceptions of obstacles to employee participation in wellness programs, were in regards to the statements: “Employees don’t perceive health and wellness as a high priority” (30% of executives agreed vs. 2% of employees); “Employees are concerned that personal information will not remain confidential (43% of executives agreed vs. 27% of employees); and “Employees distrust employer motives” (24% of executives agreed vs. 11% of employees.)     
Friday
Aug222014

Towers Watson 2014 Employer Survey Results

By Clive Riddle, August 22, 2014

Towers Watson has just released results from their annual Health Care Changes Ahead Survey which “offers insights into the focus and timing of U.S. employers’ plans and perspectives related to their health benefits, and their efforts to better manage costs and employee engagement.”

Their headline takeaway? “U.S. employers expect a 4% increase in 2015 health care costs for active employees after plan design changes… If no adjustments are made, employers project a 5.2% growth rate.

Towers Watson’s Randall Abbott tells us “in the current economic climate, affordability and sustainability remain dominant influences on employers’ overall health care strategies. Expense management and worker productivity are equally critical to business results. While employers are committed to providing health care benefits for their active employees for the foreseeable future, persistent concerns about cost escalation, the excise tax and workforce health have led to comprehensive strategies focused on both year-over-year results and long-term viability for health care benefits and workforce health improvement. The emphasis is on achieving or maintaining a high-performance health plan. And CFOs are now focused on a new gold standard: managing health cost increases to the Consumer Price Index. This requires acute attention to improving program performance.”

Here’s some key employer responses from their survey findings:

  • 73% of employers said they are somewhat or very concerned they will trigger the excise tax b
  • 43% said avoiding the tax is the top priority for their health care strategies in 2015.
  • 81% plan moderate to significant changes to their health care plans over the next three years
  • Pharmacy-only cost trend is projected to be 5.3% after plan changes (6% before changes)
  • 48% are considering tying incentives to reaching a specified health outcome such as biometric targets during the next three years ( 10% intend to adopt it in 2015)
  • 37% are considering offering plans with a higher level of benefit based on the use of high-performance or narrow networks during the next three years (7% in 2015)
  • 34% of employers are considering telemedicine during the next three years (15% in 2015)
  • 33% are considering significantly reducing company subsidies for spouses and dependents during the next three years (10% have already done so; 9% intend to do so in 2015)
  • 26% are considering spouse exclusions or surcharges if coverage is available elsewhere during the next three years; (30% already do so; 7% expect to add it in 2015)
  • 30& are considering caps on health care coverage subsidies for active employees, using defined contribution approaches during the next three years (13% already have them; 3% are planning them for 2015)
  • 50% are considering full-replacement ABHPs (Account Based Health Plans) during the next three years: (17% offer only an ABHP today; 4% intend to do so for 2015, and another 28% are considering it for 2016 or 2017)
  • 76% are exploring the use of personalized digital technologies, including mobile health applications and fitness wearables

Towers Watson included a number of questions measuring the private health insurance exchange opportunity:

  • 28% have extensively evaluated the viability of private exchanges
  • 24% said private exchanges could provide a viable alternative for their active full-time employees in 2016.
  • 64% said evidence private exchanges can deliver greater value than their current self-managed model would be a top decision factor
  • 34% said adoption of private exchanges by other large companies in their industry would be a top decision factor
  • 26% said an inability to stay below the excise tax ceiling as 2018 approaches would be a top decision factor
  • 99.5% have no plan to exit health benefits for active employees and direct them and their families to public exchanges, with or without a financial subsidy.
  • 77% are not at all confident public exchanges will provide a viable alternative for their active full-time employees in 2015 or 2016.

Of course it should be noted Towers Watson has their own private exchange product, OneExchange, that serves more than 1,100 employer clients with active employee and retiree options. Towers Watson just announced that during “the first half of 2014, 45 major U.S. employers launched OneExchange for full-time, part-time or retired employees. This is the largest number of employer implementations outside the typical fall enrollment period in the private exchange’s eight years of operation.” Major new clients they listed included GameStop; International Paper; Northrop Grumman; and the State of Rhode Island.