Last week we posted a list of ACA requirements to keep in mind as you embark on planning for 2016. From Mercer's most recent survey of employer-sponsored health plans, we know that while most employers have been doing a good job holding annual cost increases to mid-to-low single digits, they are expecting a slight uptick in 2015 and beyond. This week we are offering some ideas to support continued cost management efforts.
Pave the way for CDHP enrollment. Enrollment in consumer-directed health plans jumped up five percentage points, the biggest annual increase ever. While the high deductible is still a barrier for many employees, continued education and use of the more sophisticated decision support tools can help demonstrate the financial benefits of this approach for some. Employers might also consider one-time early adopter deposits in employees’ health savings accounts to help soften the deductible in year one.
Ready to consider a private exchange? Private exchanges have gained a foothold in the landscape of employer offerings. We have seen employees respond to the decision-support tools and make smarter purchasing decisions, such as purchasing supplemental hospital insurance alongside a high-deductible health plan. Year two results among the early adopters in Mercer’s private exchange, Mercer Marketplace™, demonstrate that employees "get it" — and the savings for both employers and employees continue beyond the transition year.
Make less costly options available. As employees take on higher deductibles, they have a greater interest in how much care costs. Making less costly options available, such as telemedicine, will be a great option for many. Transparency tools are also a good resource to help employees research the cost of service by provider. Just keep in mind that employees will need lots of help learning to use these tools. You may decide to use incentives to encourage faster adoption of this approach.
Boost engagement. Employee engagement is still not where we would all like it to be, but there are many new tools and opportunities to drive improvement. Medical concierge services are really making a difference for the employers who have pioneered this service. Other good ideas are phone apps that combine electronic health insurance identification card with links to "just in time” information.
Check your networks. Provider networks are evolving. Check with your vendor partners to find out what will be available to you in 2016. We are seeing rapid advancement in the development and adoption of accountable care organizations (ACOs), narrow networks, and medical homes. Done right, these could offer significant opportunities to gain purchasing efficiency and drive better outcomes.
Promote employee well-being. Employers continue to see improving employee health as a key long-term strategy for restraining health benefit cost growth. But their focus is broadening to include emotional and financial health, which, together with physical health, constitute well-being — a term encompassing the many interrelated factors that contribute to individual and collective success. Check out Beth Umland’s latest “By the Numbers” post, with new survey results on strategies to promote employee well-being.