Employers are looking beyond substantial health plan design changes to other strategies that will help them control costs, according to recent research from DirectPath and CEB. The 2017 Medical Plan Trends and Observations Report noted that high-deductible health plans (HDHPs) are not a “silver bullet” for health care cost containment, and so employers are incorporating solutions like health savings accounts (HSAs), wellness plans, spousal surcharges, and other alternative options to reduce costs.
The report, which contains information from more than 975 employee benefit health plans, found the following:
• Price transparency tools. Fifty-one percent of employers offer a price transparency tool to help employees choose the service or product best for them, and 18 percent plan to add such tools in the next three years, according to the report. In a review of price comparison requests, these services resulted in an average employee savings of $173 per procedure and average employer savings of $409 per procedure.
• Spousal surcharges. Some employers are imposing surcharges on spouses who have the opportunity to elect coverage elsewhere. While the percentage of organizations with spousal surcharges remained unchanged (26 percent in 2017, as compared to 27 percent in 2016), average surcharge amounts increased dramatically to $152 per month, a more than 40 percent increase from 2016.
• Wellness incentives. The majority (58 percent) of 2017 plans offer some type of wellness incentives, up from 50 percent in 2016. Employers are getting creative with their incentives to drive participation, offering rewards including paycheck contributions, plan premium discounts, HSA and health reimbursement arrangement (HRA) contributions and reduced office visit copayments.
• HSAs. Of the employers analyzed, 67 percent offer HSAs, a more popular option than HRAs, which were offered by just 15 percent of employers. In addition, employer contributions to HSAs increased almost 10 percent.
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