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Employers Actively Exploring, Offering New Ways of Delivering Healthcare to Employees

Jaime Rosenberg
In a survey of 170 employers, employers indicated that they are taking a more activist role in delivering healthcare to their employees, expressed frustration with the pharmaceutical supply chain, and said they expect to see a large uptake of virtual healthcare in the coming years.
As healthcare costs continue to rise, employers have joined in on efforts to take hold of the issue. With healthcare benefits expected to reach $15,000 per employee in 2019, employers are playing an increasing activist role in exploring and offering new ways of delivering healthcare to their employees, according to an annual survey from the National Business Group of Health. The survey also found that employers expect that virtual healthcare and technology will play a major role in how healthcare is delivered in the coming years.

The survey of 170 large employers indicated that, in the next year, employers project the total cost of providing medical and pharmacy benefits will increase 5% for the sixth consecutive year. Employers will cover approximately 70% of those costs, which are largely driven by high cost claims, specialty pharmacy, and specific diseases or conditions, such as cancer.
“Healthcare cost increases continue to outpace workers’ earnings and increases in inflation, making this trend unaffordable and unsustainable over the long term,” Brian Marcotte, president and CEO, National Business Group on Health, said in a statement. “No longer able to rely on traditional cost sharing techniques to manage costs, a growing number of employers are taking an activist role in shaking up how care is delivered and paid for.”

Nearly half of employers reported that they are taking a hands-on approach, with 49% indicating that they are pursuing the implementation of alternative payment and delivery models, such as accountable care organizations (ACOs), and circumventing the delivery system to improve access, convenience, experience, and efficiency through virtual and digital care point solutions and other services.

Also weighing in on frustrations with the pharmaceutical supply chain, the overwhelming majority of employers said the supply chain needs to change; 14% said it needs to be more transparent, 35% said rebates need to be reduced, and half said the pharmaceutical supply chain is inefficient and too complex and needs to be overhauled and simplified. The majority also expressed belief that rebates are not an effective tool for helping drive down costs.

Specifically, more than half of employers expressed concern that rebates do not benefit customers at the point of sale. To this, 27% of employers are “adopting recently developed capability by pharmacy benefit managers to pull rebates forward at the point of sale to benefit consumers,” according to survey findings. Another 31% are considering implementing point of sale rebates in the coming years.

Moving into the future of healthcare, 52% of employers believe that virtual care and telemedicine will play a significant role in healthcare delivery and 43% believe artificial intelligence will play a major role. Looking to be at the forefront of the movement, 51% labeled implementing more virtual care solution as their top healthcare initiative in the coming year.

The majority of employers also expressed concern over growing consolidation in the industry, with just 26% saying they are optimistic that mergers between health plans and pharmacy benefit managers will have a positive impact on cost, quality, and patient experience.

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