Email to a Colleague

Large employers cite specialty drugs, high-cost patients among biggest cost drivers
By Susan Morse
From Healthcare Finance on Tuesday, August 9, 2016
(View Website)

According to an annual survey released Tuesday by the National Business Group on Health, 80 percent of 133 large employers placed specialty pharmacy as one of the top three highest cost drivers, followed by high cost claimants, at 73 percent, and specific diseases and conditions at 61 percent.

Overall large employers said they expect increases to health benefits to remain steady at 6 percent in 2017. This is identical to the increase they would have experienced in each of the past two years had they not made changes to their plan design, the National Business Group on Health said.

"While employers have been able to keep increases in check for the past few years, costs are still running at more than twice the rate of inflation and general wage increases, thereby threatening affordability," said Brian Marcotte, president and CEO of the National Business Group on Health.

Many employers expect to hold increases to 5 percent by making some changes to their plans, he said.

However, for 2017, employer focus is shifting away from plan design to optimizing how healthcare is accessed and delivered, according to Marcotte.

"Interestingly, current estimates have health insurance premiums for the average public exchange plan increasing by at least 10 percent, about twice what large employers are projecting for next year," Marcotte said. "This is a clear indication that the employer-based health care model continues to be the most effective way to provide health insurance coverage to employees and their families."

The Large Employers' 2017 Health Plan Design Survey is the industry's first look at health benefit costs and plan design changes for 2017. It is based on the responses of 133 large employers, according to the nonprofit association representing 425 members.

The survey found more employers are focused on expanded telehealth services, Centers of Excellence options and optional selective network choices, Marcotte said.