Group Health Costs Continue to Climb

November 30, 2017

It could cost you five percent or more to provide your employees with health care benefits in 2018.

After surveying large employers, the National Business Group on Health released a report on plan design costs this summer. They estimate that costs for an employee could rise from $13,482 per employee to $14,156. This is the fifth consecutive year benefit costs increased by five percent. Most employers cover 70 percent of an employee’s costs.

For smaller employers who do not have the bargaining power of larger groups, the rate hike could be more.

Despite the increase, employer plans still are cheaper than individual plans. Insurers say costs for individual plans on the Affordable Care Act exchange should increase by double digits.
Ways to Reduce Costs

One popular way among employers to reduce costs is through plan design. The high-deductible health plan (HDHP) is effective, though not often popular with employees. These plans require employees to pay all medical expenses up front until the deductible is met. With 2018 out-of-pocket Limits as high as $6,650 for self-only coverage, or $13,300 for family coverage (or even higher with a deductible under an HRA plan design), HDHPs limit an employee’s ability to afford medical treatment. Still, as many as 40 percent of companies expect to offer HDHP plans in 2018.

Many employers are now relying on services and tools to reduce costs, increase favorable post-care outcomes, and increase employee satisfaction with the health care process. Services include:

  • Concierge medicine – Doctors charge patients a monthly fee for full access to their services. Many employers are purchasing concierge or direct primary care services, combined with a high-deductible health plan.

  • Tools to navigate the health care system – Many insurance companies provide access to experts and centers of excellence to help individuals with chronic conditions, such as diabetes, or who need surgery.

Another popular benefit is telehealth (also called telemedicine). Almost 96 percent of employers surveyed said they planned to offer this benefit. Telehealth, which delivers health care through the use of smart phones or laptops, is often provided at no cost or a heavily discounted rate.