What health systems should learn from employer health plan priorities
The latest survey from the Business Group on Health identifies the main healthcare cost drivers and coverage concerns for large employers – and for 2023 and beyond can help health systems prepare to meet the needs of some of their customers’ health plan priorities.
The advocacy group surveyed 135 employers that collectively cover more than 18 million people. Employers’ concerns generally fell into three buckets: The high cost of care, the pandemic’s impact on health, and the need for a positive care experience.
Here’s a look at five key findings from the survey and how health systems should respond to employer health plan priorities.
Cancer is the top driver of care costs. Nearly 60% of employers have seen or anticipate an increase in late-stage cancer diagnoses. As this increase has been directly linked to delays in cancer screenings and treatments due to the pandemic, health systems should prioritize ramped-up screening efforts and increased access to treatment options for patients facing the highest risk of a cancer diagnosis.
Employers aren’t passing the buck. While employer health plan costs were flat from 2019 to 2020, they rose 8.2% from 2020 to 2021. At the same time, employers are picking up 82% of the cost of employee coverage this year, a 2% increase over 2021. Instead of passing on costs, employers are looking at long-term, large-scale reforms that cut costs, the Business Group on Health said. Offerings such as advanced primary care and condition-specific centers of excellence will appeal to these employers.
Virtual care needs to be integrated. Three in four employers say virtual care will significantly impact the future of care delivery, but a higher percentage – 84% – say it needs to be integrated with in-person care to be most effective. Employers fear that fragmentation leads to duplication of services, unnecessary care, and wasteful spending. The message to health systems is loud and clear: Don’t keep virtual care in a silo.
Behavioral health is on employers’ minds. More than 80% of employers have seen or anticipate long-term behavioral health impacting employees and their families. In response, 85% plan to keep in place the behavioral health benefits they introduced during the pandemic, and many are looking to virtual visits as an affordable way to provide access. This supports the thesis of a prior analysis from Trilliant Health, which pegged behavioral health as the best long-term telehealth bet for providers.
Companies are prioritizing health equity. About 75% of employers recognize their well-being initiatives could do more to promote health equity. They’re looking to address a range of issues, whether it’s social determinants of health such as childcare, transportation, and food access or systemic challenges such as racism and restricted access to abortion. Increasingly, employers want to work with health systems who can deliver on the promise of equitable access to clinical care and non-clinical resources.
Brian Eastwood is a Boston-based writer with more than 10 years of experience covering healthcare IT and healthcare delivery. He also writes about enterprise IT, consumer technology, and corporate leadership.