Entries in Employers (21)

Friday
Aug112017

Employer Surveys Project 2018 Cost Increases in the Five Percent Range

Employer Surveys Project 2018 Cost Increases in the Five Percent Range
 

by Clive Riddle, August 11, 2017

 

The National Business Group on Health has released results from their Large Employers’ 2018 Health Care Strategy and Plan Design Survey, which projects the total employer cost of providing medical and pharmacy benefits to rise 5% for the fifth consecutive year in 2018. The total cost of health care is estimated to be $13,482 per employee in 2017, and is projected to increase to $14,156 in 2018, with employers funding 70% of these costs. What is driving cost increases? The most often listed top driver was specialty pharmacy (26%) and 80% of employers ranked this among the top three cost drivers.

 

Similarly, last week Willis Towers Watson released preliminary findings from their 22nd annual Best Practices in Health Care Employer Survey, which found that "Employers expect health care costs to increase by 5.5%* in 2018, up from a 4.6% increase in 2017."

 

The NBGH 2018 survey also produced this grab-bag of interesting employer survey responses regarding health benefit strategies, regarding telehealth, onsite care, value based care, and CDHP:

 

·         96% will make telehealth services available in states where it is allowed next year

·         56% plan to offer telehealth for behavioral health services

·         20% of employers are experiencing employee telehealth utilization rates of 8% or higher

·         21%s plan to promote ACOs in 2018, and another 26% are considering offering them       

·         54% will offer onsite or near site health centers in 2018        

·         88% expect to use Centers of Excellence in 2018 for certain procedures        

·         40% of employers have incorporated some type of value-based benefit design

·         18% will use value-based benefit design to steer employees toward telehealth in 2018 (16% in 2017)

·         66% of companies will offer medical decision support and second opinion services in 2018

·         90% will offer at least one Consumer Directed Health Plan (CDHP) in 2018.

·         40% of employers will offer a CDHP as the only plan option in 2018, compared with 35% this year

·         28% pair a HDHP with a Health Reimbursement Arrangement
 

 
Friday
Jul212017

State Employee Benefit Plans Provide Insight Into Overall Group Benefit Trends

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By Clive Riddle, July 20, 2017

 

The Summer 2017 edition of Data, Segal Consulting’s publication providing research findings on public sector employee benefits, presents findings from their 2017 State Employee Health Benefits Study. As states are one of the largest employers, and their benefit decision making is directly impacted by policy makers, monitoring the pulse of state employee benefit plans provides insight into benefit trends for group coverage as a whole.

 

Andrew Sherman, Segal’s National Director of Public Sector Consulting, tells us “health benefits have become more important to state leaders as the cost of coverage outpaces overall inflation, placing budget pressure on health plan funding and underscoring the need for ongoing cost-management efforts. Examining what other states offer can be helpful for these leaders when they make difficult decisions about potential changes in coverage.”

 

The 23-page issue exclusively presents their study which involved a review of the websites for all 50 states and the District of Columbia in the fourth quarter of 2016, capturing medical, prescription drug, vision and dental plan information, as well as wellness and tobacco-cessation programs, including 105 PPOs/POS plans, 83 HDHPs/CDHPs, 149 HMOs/EPOs and five indemnity plans.

 

One insight from the study was “there are stark geographic discrepancies to where it is offered. According to the study, 13 Southern States offer HDHP/CDHPs, compared to just two in the Northeast. They are offered in eight states in the Midwest and seven in the West.” This equates to 22% of the states in the Northeast, 76% in the South, 67% in the Midwest and 54% in the West offering consumer driven plans.

 

Single premium increases averaged 8% for HMO/EPO plans, 10% for PPO/POS plans and 14% for HDHP/CDHP plans. The average single monthly premium was $780 for HMO/EPO plans, $713 for PPO/POS plans and $563 for HDHP/CDHP plans. Single deductibles averaged $194 for HMO/EPO plans, $483 for PPO/POS plans and $1,997 for HDHP/CDHP plans.

 

For the prescription benefit, single copayments averaged $9 for generic, $29 for brand formulary, $53 for brand non-formulary, and $101 for specialty drugs.

 
Friday
Jun162017

A Dozen Takeaways From PwC’s Medical Cost Trend: Behind the Numbers 2018 Report

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By Clive Riddle, June 16, 2017

 

PwC’s Health Research Institute has released Medical Cost Trend: Behind the Numbers 2018, their twelfth annual report projecting the growth of private sector medical costs in the coming year and identifying the leading trend drivers. The findings are largely based upon PwC’s annual Health & Well-being Touchstone Survey results, which draws from responses of 780 employers from 37 industries, and have also just been released.

 

Here’s a dozen takeaways from this year’s 32 page Behind the Numbers report, and 114 page Touchstone Survey report:

 

1.       PwC’s HRI projects a 6.5 percent growth rate for next year, a half percentage point increase from the estimated 2017 rate.
 

2.       This growth rates steadily decreased from 11.9% in 2007 to 6.5% in 2014, and has fluctuated slighly above or below that figure since then
 

3.       PwCs provides this definition of their projected medical cost trend: the “increase in per capita costs of medical services that affect commercial insurers and large, self-insured businesses. Insurance companies use the projection to calculate health plan premiums for the coming year.”
 

4.       PwC's HRI has identified three major inflators expected to impact medical cost trend in the coming year: (A) Rising general inflation impacts healthcare. As the U.S. economy heats up, a rise in general inflation during 2016 and 2017 will likely put upward pressure on wages, medical prices and overall cost trend in 2018; (B) Movement to high-deductible health plans is losing steam. The wave of growth in high-deductible health plans, employers' go-to strategy in recent years to curb health spending, may be plateauing; and  (C) Fewer branded drugs are coming off patent. Employers may have less opportunity to encourage employees to buy cost-saving generics in 2018.
 

5.       PwC's HRI has identified two major deflators expected to impact medical cost trend in the coming year: (A) Political and public scrutiny puts pressure on drug companies. Heightened political and public attention could encourage drug companies to moderate price increases; and (B) Employers are targeting the right people with the right treatments to minimize waste. They are doubling down on tactics such as prescription quantity limits and exploring new technologies such as artificial intelligence to match people with the best treatment.
 

6.       The report also cites these healthcare drivers affecting the 2018 cost trend:  Technology and treatment innovation: Provider and Plan Consolidation; Government regulation; and Evolving Payment models.
 

7.       The report allocated these proportions of costs by component for 2018: Pharmacy 18%; Inpatient 30%; Outpatient 19%; Physician 29%; Other 4%
 

8.       The Touchstone Survey cites that “Medical plan costs have continued to increase, but employers expect that the rate of increase will start to slow. Plan design changes contributed towards slightly lower-than-expected increases in 2016;” and that “the average increase in 2016 was 6.8% before plan design changes and 3.6% after plan design changes. In 2017, participants expect to see a 6.0% increase before plan design changes and a 3.2% increase after plan design changes.”
 

9.       The Touchstone Survey notes that “participants appear to be in a "wait and see" mode – rather than considering broader and more transformational changes, they continue to use traditional cost-shifting approaches to control health spend;” and that “57% of participants expect to continue to increase employee contributions in the next three years, while 38% (29% for Rx) plan to increase employee cost-sharing through plan design changes.”
 

10.   The Touchstone Survey finds that “participants are increasing contributions in the form of surcharges for spouse, domestic partner and dependent coverage. This may be contributing towards a decrease in enrolled family size and slowing the rise in net employer spend.”
 

11.   The Touchstone Survey also finds that “participants are utilizing High Deductible Health Plans (HDHPs) more and Preferred Provider Organizations (PPOs) less, although PPOs remain more popular among employees. PPOs are the highest-enrolled plan 44% of the time, compared to 46% in 2016 and 60% in 2009. HDHPs are the highest-enrolled plan 34% of the time, up from 32% in 2016 and 8% in 2009.”
 

12.   The Touchtone Survey found that employer interest in population health is strong but private exchange interest is waning. They report that “79% offer wellness programs compared to 76% in 2016, and 63% offer DM programs compared to 56% in 2016;” while  “8% of participants are considering moving their active employees to a private exchange; 2% have already done so. Interest seems to have dropped off as the discussions on public exchanges and ACA have increased. However, 36% of participants who offer retiree medical coverage are considering moving pre-65 retirees to a private or public exchange.”
 

 
Friday
Feb192016

Two Employee Benefit Studies Don’t Agree on Everything – But Do Agree on 52% HDHP Adoption

By Clive Riddle, February 19, 2016 

Benefitfocus has just released the “Benefitfocus State of Employee Benefits 2016,” based on benefit selection data from 700,000+ people at 500 large employers, based on actual behavioral versus self-reported data. They cite that 52 percent of large employer clients now offer high-deductible health plans (HDHPs). 

The report notes that “millennials—born between 1980 and 1989—selected HDHPs more than any other age group. However, while approximately 44 percent of employees in this group chose HDHPs, a much smaller number of these employees took full advantage of health savings accounts (HSAs.)”

In addition, the report found that their clients “should be well positioned to navigate the Cadillac tax to be levied on higher-cost health care plans in 2020 under the Affordable Care Act. Total premiums across all 2016 plans averaged $14,974 for family coverage and $6,096 for individual coverage—both well below the tax’s respective target thresholds of $27,500 and $10,200.” 

While voluntary benefits have receiving much publicity as a popular solution and offering in consumer driven plan environments, they report that “only 36 percent of large employers offered such voluntary benefits for 2016, and only 14 percent of employees actually enrolled.” 

Meanwhile, Wells Fargo Insurance  has just released their Employee Benefits Trend Study surveying 650 middle-market companies and large corporations, which painted a somewhat different picture. They found that “fifty eight percent of employers surveyed expect their medical plan costs to exceed the thresholds for the Affordable Care Act (ACA) excise tax, or “Cadillac” tax, which was originally to take effect in 2018, but has been delayed until 2020.” Their findings state that “As more employers offer high deductible health plans, the C-suite is also aware of the financial exposure that employees face with these types of plans. As a result, they are looking to mitigate those costs by offering voluntary benefits solutions (e.g. critical illness and accident insurance).” 

But the Wells Fargo survey did agree to the penny with the Benefitfocus study on one item – HDHP adoption, citing that “half of the employers in the study said they will continue to make changes to their plans either this year or in 2017 by adding a high deductible plan option (52 percent), increasing the employee contribution percentage (56 percent), or increasing co-insurance features (55 percent).

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.