Hewitt: Large Employers Go Beyond Health Care Cost Shifting

April 19, 2007 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - A new Hewitt Associates survey found that most large U.S. employers plan to invest more in their employees' health and welfare in the months to come.

A Hewitt news release said the survey of approximately 450 major U.S. employers covering more than 8 million employees revealed that almost two-thirds (63%) plan to take more aggressive steps over several years to help employees improve their health.

Employers will accomplish that by increasing education efforts, implementing condition management programs and using data analysis and other programs to improve health and productivity while holding participants accountable for their behaviors, Hewitt said. Fewer than 40% plan to maintain their current focus on health care benefits – primarily concentrating on annual cost mitigation.

“Employers continue to be concerned about the cost of health care benefits, but realize that in order to fundamentally improve outcomes – and effectively lower costs – they need to begin targeting the root of the issue by directly influencing the interactions between providers and patients,” said Jim Winkler, practice leader of Hewitt’s Health Management Consulting practice, in the news release.

Offering Employees the Right Tools

According to Hewitt’s survey, almost 70% of companies offer or plan to offer tools, resources and/or programs to help employees better manage their health, including health risk questionnaires, decision support and nurse lines.

An increasing number of companies are also taking a closer look at the health risks and needs of their employee population and offering condition management and wellness programs designed to drive participation, trigger positive changes in consumer behavior and provide patients with additional support and guidance, the announcement said.

More than three-quarters (77%) of responding companies are profiling the chronic health conditions prevalent in their workforce in 2007, compared with just 43% in 2006, and between 65% and 79% of companies gave employees – or planned to give them in 2007 – access to targeted condition management or wellness programs through health plans or focused programs.

Almost half (48%) also offered or planned to offer incentives to employees who participate in wellness or other health-related initiatives, compared with just 38% in 2006.

The Patient-Provider Relationship

According to Hewitt’s survey, companies are exploring several different options to help influence the patient-provider relationship:

  • More than 20% of companies offer or plan to offer a high-deductible health plan with a health savings account (HSA) by the end of 2007, and almost half are considering offering one at a future date. While just 3% of employees elected these plans last year, most companies anticipate that enrollment will grow to 20% in five years.
  • While only 11% of employers currently require health plans and providers to disclose quality performance information to employees, more than 75% of companies plan to do so in the future.
  • Almost one in five (19%) companies include or plan to include, by the end of the year, benefit designs based on evidence-based medicine and appropriate care protocols, such as waiving co-payments for prescription drugs that are proved to be effective and appropriate to treat certain diseases. Another 60% are considering implementing them at a future date.
  • Almost one-tenth (9%) of companies require or plan to require health plans to have pay-for-performance programs in place by the end of the year, and another 56% are considering it at a future date.

Copies of the survey findings are available by contacting the Information Desk at Hewitt Associates, (847) 295-5000 or via e-mail at infodesk@hewitt.com .