Most Americans still get their health care coverage from their place of employment, so we take a continuing interest in trends in that coverage, both from the employer and employee perspective. WillisTowersWatson (if they keep doing mergers they are going to have to come with a different naming formula) releases results from its 2016 Emerging Trends in Health Care Survey. (WTW Survey) The 467 employers responding to the survey expect medical trend to be around 4% for 2016, although they believe it would have been 6% without certain plan design and other cost control changes. While this seems low, employers still perceive health care benefits as an area needing greater control and they continue to view employee engagement in health as a key productivity tool. 78% of respondents said they would make moderate to significant changes in health benefits by 2020. The recent two-year delay in implementation of the high-value plan excise tax has little impact on their plans, according to 70% of the companies.
While 31% use centers of excellence in 2016, 73% expect to do so by 2018, and 54% expect to use a benefit differential to drive use of a narrow, high-performance provider network by 2018, compared to only 9% who do so now. In 2015, 38% encouraged use of telemedicine, compared to 67% in 2016 and 90% of firms expect to do this by 2018. 59% have a health and wellness portal or offer apps for this purpose in 2016 and 92% expect to do so by 2018, while 52% offer a decision-support tool to employees in 2016 and 89% say they will by 2018. Employers are sold on the idea of using cost-sharing to drive what they perceive as higher value providers or services. In addition, WTW notes that more employers are interested in private exchanges, valuing the choices they offer employees. Employees who use an exchange report higher satisfaction and greater understanding of their benefits and medical costs. Very high percentages of companies say that improving employee health and holding employees accountable for effectively managing their health and health care is a key strategy. The biggest problem employers have in this regard continues to be getting employees engaged.