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back to index backAMERItalk February,  2005


Attacking health care cost inflation: Beyond cost shifting

Data from recent ASE surveys suggest that employers have adopted strong cost-cutting and cost control strategies. Nowhere has this been more evident than the area of health care. More often than not, these strategies have taken the form of shifting costs to the employee. This may only be a short-term solution; but years of double-digit premium hikes have forced employers to take a hard look at the richness of their employee health plans. 

A recent survey from Hewitt Associates suggests that employers are now looking at more systemic, long-term changes to the delivery of health benefits to employees.  Some of the key findings include: 

Expansion of Consumer-Driven Strategies – The push toward employee consumerism is gaining momentum. The Hewitt survey shows that the most common consumer-driven models are high-deductible coverage with spending accounts (used by 17% of employers), multi-tier networks (6%), defined contribution (5%) and customized design (4%). The authors suggest that the success of these plans depends upon employee communication and education. 

Greater use of Disease Management and Wellness Programs – The survey's authors suggest that a major driver of health care cost increases is the at-risk employee, or the employee with a chronic condition. The use of condition management programs has increased from 73% in 2004 to 83% in 2005. Thirty percent offer incentives to encourage employee participation in wellness programs, up from 21% a year ago. 

Greater Transparency in Costs and Quality Data – The survey suggests that employers are focusing more on creating greater marketplace transparency to control costs and improve clinical outcomes.  Sixty percent of employers encourage the use of accredited plans, 44% review HEDIS and other available data, 32% use plans that support Leapfrog patient safety standards whenever possible, and 18% use narrower networks based on provider quality and total episode- of-care data. 

Data from the ASE's 2005 Health Care Insurance Benefit Survey will be released in February for Mid-Michigan members and March for Southeast Michigan members. 

Source: American Society of Employers - ASe-Update, January 2005 - GAI

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