Companies Looking to Peers for Health Strategies

More than three-quarters of health benefit plan sponsors surveyed said the actions of their peers influence their health care strategies.

While employers plan to change their long-term health strategies to evolve with the changing health landscape, there has been little effort over the past year to move in that direction, according to a survey of more than 1,000 companies by Aon Hewitt.

Even some of the most prevalent tactics in employers’ health strategies had significantly low adoption rates in 2015:

  • Increasing deductibles and copays (16%);
  • Providing cost and quality transparency tools (10%); and
  • Providing personalized, aggregated online views of health care usage and other information (9%).

However, nearly half of respondents indicated they are considering these strategies for the next three to five years.

More than three-quarters of companies (77%) said the actions of their peers have a significant or moderate influence on their own health care strategies, and 59% said so do the actions of major employers in their key geographies. Forty-six percent said the upcoming 2016 presidential and congressional election will have little to no impact on their health strategy. Nearly half (49%) said it will have some impact, but they plan to move forward and will develop some alternatives tied to different election scenarios.

“Cost increases have eased over the past few years, reducing the pressure on companies to deviate from the status quo,” says Sue Willette, senior vice president for Health at Aon and the leader of the survey. “Very few companies want to be first in making transformative changes, but many want to be fast followers. The rate at which companies will take action is likely to be determined by a combination of the predicted spike in future cost trend and bold moves from other employers, particularly from those companies in related industries.”

Eighty-seven percent of employers indicated that increasing participant awareness of and decision making related to health issues is their top priority. Aon Hewitt’s survey showed a small but continued increase in the number of employers offering various health and wellness-related programs. Nearly two-thirds of companies offer biometric screenings (65%) and smoking cessation programs (64%) in 2015, half offer weight management programs (51%), and about one-third offer stress reduction (33%) and nutrition programs (35%).

Aon Hewitt’s 2015 Health Care Survey surveyed small, mid-sized and large employers.