National Alliance Purchaser Survey Highlights Transition to Stabilized Business, Value-Based Care

Matthew Gavidia
Matthew Gavidia

Matthew is an associate editor of The American Journal of Managed Care® (AJMC®). He has been working on AJMC® since 2019 after receiving his Bachelor's degree at Rutgers University–New Brunswick in journalism and economics.

SAP Partners | <b>National Alliance of Healthcare Purchaser Coalitions</b>

A survey of employer and purchaser members of the National Alliance of Healthcare Purchaser Coalitions found that over half expect a transition to a more stabilized business environment by the third quarter of this year, as well as increased benefit offerings on mental health access and virtual care delivery.

As the COVID-19 pandemic upended the work/life balance for employees in the past year, a new survey by the National Alliance of Healthcare Purchaser Coalitions (National Alliance) found that stability may finally be returning to the workplace.

Polling 151 employer/purchaser members of the National Alliance in March 2021, the survey, “Pulse of the Purchaser 2021-2023 Directions in Workforce, Benefits, Health Equity,” indicates that 1 in 4 expect to return to a stabilized business environment by the second quarter of this year, with 27% expecting to do so by the end of the third quarter.

“Education and health care will return faster than most while finance and public administration industries anticipate a longer period of return to normal, on average,” said the authors.

Expanding on what plans employers have in the coming year, 83% said they will continue to allow people to work from home, with 76% having increased virtual meeting capabilities and 60% offering flexibility to cover employee home demands.

As cases of COVID-19 are on the rise again, over 90% of employers have already or anticipate to increase availability of telehealth services for both physical and behavioral care, a trend found even among small employers (less than 1000 employees) who are currently using (61%) or considering (31%) telehealth.

Employers will also work to support COVID-19 vaccines, with 81% providing information on benefits of the vaccines, 76% offering education on eligibility, and over 80% of very large employers (10,000 or more employees) anticipating they will provide onsite vaccination before year’s end. Eight percent plan to mandate the vaccine for employees, and 10% have implemented or are considering to do so for higher-exposure employees.

Notably, a transition to value-based health care may also be in the works as well, with 31% of employers considering the benefits design approach, adding to the 35% who are currently invested in value-based care.

“Over half are considering predeductible coverage of chronic conditions….45% anticipate increased employee cost sharing to mitigate cost increases, while 55% are not considering,” added the authors.

Other findings include:

  • Seven of 10 employers are considering strategies to address high-cost claimants and bundled payments, with fastest-growing delivery-based strategies indicated as Advanced Primary Care and Centers of Excellence
  • Nine of 10 of employers are implementing or considering delivery reform-based strategies with the most common being virtual care delivery and improving mental health access
  • Seventy-nine percent of employers have integrated (49%) or plan to integrate (30%) health equity into their organizations' values and objectives, but only 8% have established equity metrics for health and well-being programs

"Employers are working to get back to normal operations, which most expect by the third quarter of 2021," said Michael Thompson, president and chief executive officer of the National Alliance, in a statement. "While the vaccination efforts are currently job one, plans are shaping up now for employers to improve health, equity, and health care value over the next few years."