Benefits

Employers Expanding Strategies to Reduce Health Benefit Costs

Employers are incorporating solutions like health savings accounts (HSAs), wellness incentives, price transparency tools and alternative care options to reduce costs.

By Rebecca Moore editors@plansponsor.com | March 01, 2017
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With the future of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and its “Cadillac Tax” unclear, employers are looking beyond substantial health plan design changes to other strategies that will help them control costs, according to the 2017 Medical Plan Trends and Observations Report released by DirectPath and CEB.

With high deductible health plans (HDHPs) proving to not be a “silver bullet” for health care cost containment, employers are incorporating solutions like health savings accounts (HSAs), wellness incentives, price transparency tools and alternative care options to reduce costs.

Fifty-one percent of employers offer a price transparency tool to help employees choose the service or product best for them, and 18% plan to add such tools in the next three years, according to CEB. 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. Price shopping for even routine procedures often reveals substantial cost differences even in the same network and/or geographic area.

In an effort to reduce costs and the administrative burden of tracking coverage for non-employees, some employers are imposing surcharges on spouses who have the opportunity to elect coverage elsewhere. While the percentage of organizations with spousal surcharges remained static (26% in 2017, as compared to 27% in 2016), average surcharge amounts increased dramatically to $152 per month, a more than 40% increase from 2016.

The majority (58%) of 2017 plans offer some type of wellness incentives, up from 50% in 2016. Employers are getting creative with their incentives to drive participation, offering rewards including paycheck contributions, plan premium discounts, HSA and health reimbursement account (HRA) contributions and reduced office visit co-pays.

NEXT: Struggling to drive use of telemedicine, and popularity of HSAs

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