The 15th annual survey of employers health benefits was released last week. (TW Survey) The survey is a joint effort of Towers Watson and the National Business Group on Health. For the employers represented n the survey, 507 companies with more than 1000 employees each, cost increases have stabilized in the 6-7% area over the last few years, but this is obviously significantly above both inflation and GDP growth. For the best performing companies, cost trend has been in the 2% range, which is quite impressive. While this group of employers isn’t shifting a lot more of premium cost to employees, they are continuing to add high-deductible plans, which do put more of a cost-burden on workers.
The biggest frustration employers have is employees’ poor health habits coupled with lack of engagement in wellness programs. Tougher positive and negative incentives are the firms’ primary reaction to this problem. Companies would also like to do more to direct workers to high quality, efficient providers, but feel they have inadequate information and that they lack support from the overall health system. Employers also do not think their medical vendors are always effective, with satisfaction lowest in regard to targeting employees who should participate in health management and higher for actually changing member behavior.
Most employers are skeptical that current health care reform proposals would lower costs, in fact the great majority believe it will raise their own costs and lead them to provide a less valuable benefits package. They also do not believe reform will improve quality or access to health coverage. Larger employers, such as those surveyed for this report, have been the spur for much of the innovation and progress in addressing health care quality and cost issues. Their perspective on reform should be heeded and they should perhaps be allowed to take the lead on formulating truly effective changes to the health system, not our elected representatives, who have no real experience with the problems and potential solutions.