Healthcare Cost Outlook for 2017

Healthcare benefit costs are expected to increase 6% for large employers in the United States in 2017 according to a recent annual survey conducted by National Business Group on Health [1]. Many of the 133 employers surveyed for this study plan to make changes to their benefits plans in order to hold the increase at 5%.

While a cost increase of some kind in 2017 is inevitable for employers, implementing cost-control measures as well as close management of benefit plan design can help.

In an effort to lower the impact of rising costs, employers often restructure their benefits plan design. Offering high-deductible plans to employees has become one of the most utilized cost-control methods. More than 80% of the employers surveyed expect to offer their employees a high-deductible plan option in 2017. More than 30% of them plan to make the high-deductible plan option the only option for their employees [2].

By taking advantage of a high-deductible plan, employers benefit from cost-savings and employees will benefit from the availability of a health savings account (HSA). Employees can use this tax-free, tax-deductible account to pay for qualified medical expenses.

While some employers will focus on ways to immediately lower the costs of healthcare benefits plans through redesigning their offering, many other large employers will shift their focus to ways in which healthcare access can be optimized. The hope is that by optimizing the benefits plans and offerings available, employees will become better healthcare consumers and reducing employer costs as a result.

It’s anticipated that more employers will offer their employees additional tools to manage care such as nurse coaching for lifestyle management. According to the survey, 56% of respondents are planning to provide their employees with self-service decision-making tools in an effort to help them become better healthcare consumers [1].

The same survey conducted by National Business Group on Health states that the use of Centers of Excellence will grow from 79% in 2016 to 85% in 2017 [1]. Centers of Excellence offer employees the opportunity to receive the highest-quality care possible. This also benefits employers. For example, when an employee receives high-quality care at a Center of Excellence, the rate of readmission for surgical procedures and the amount of recovery time can be reduced in many cases. Employees could therefore return to work faster after surgical procedures or illness [3].

High-performing Centers of Excellence that are available through a bundled provider network solution has the ability to provide high-quality care to patients while maintaining affordable costs for employers. BridgeHealth maintains rigorous standards when selecting providers for our plans. By utilizing verified data from an external source, we ensure top-tier provider options for employers (Plan Sponsors) and employees (Plan Members), ultimately providing employees with excellent surgical outcomes. BridgeHealth partners with the top 25% of hospital providers in the country based on outcomes of care, mortality, complications, readmissions, patient safety, process of care, and patient satisfaction. Providers in our network have attained the highest quality standards based on data from an independent source, CareChex [4].

1) National Business Group on Health, August 2016
2) Expect your health insurance costs to rise in 2017, CNBC, August 2016
3) Employers drive value with centers of excellence, Managed Healthcare Executive, November 2013
4) Hospital Quality Scoring and Rating Methods, Comparion Carechex

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