- Nine in 10 employers plan to offer telehealth services to their workers next year, if the state allows — up from 70% this year, according to a new National Business Group on Health survey.
- By 2020, that number is expected to reach 100%, the nonprofit estimated. Meanwhile, employee utilization of telehealth services remains low, but is growing.
- The survey, released Tuesday, is based on responses from 133 large U.S. companies offering coverage to more than 15 million employees.
“Employers’ focus in 2017 is shifting away from plan design to optimizing how healthcare is accessed and delivered,” NBGH president and CEO Brian Marcotte said. “That translates into expanded telehealth services, more Centers of Excellence options and optional selective network choices that focus on providing higher quality health care.”
Overall employee health benefit costs are projected to rise 6% next year, the survey showed. But many employers expect to hold increases to 5% by making modifying plan designs. This is in stark contrast to the double-digit proposed premium rates insurers have been touting before rates are finalized in the fall.
According to the survey, exorbitant prices for specialty drugs are fueling the rise in health benefit costs, with 80% of employers citing specialty pharmacy as the No. 1 cost driver, followed by high-cost claimants and certain diseases and conditions. This is prompting some employers to carve out a specialty drugs tier within the pharmacy plan, Forbes reported.
Other findings from the analysis:
- 84% of employers will offer a Consumer-Directed Health Plan in 2017, up from 83% this year;
- Eight in 10 employers will offer nurse coaching for care and condition management and 72% will offer it for lifestyle management;
- One in three employers will allow surcharges for spouses who can get coverage through their own employer; and
- Centers of Excellence use will jump to 85% in 2017, up from 79% this year, fueled by bariatric surgeries, transplants and fertility treatments.