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 Cost of Employee Health Benefits Projected to Rise 5 Percent in 2019: Survey

Large employers expect the cost of providing medical and pharmacy benefits to rise by 5 percent in 2019 for the sixth straight year, bringing the total cost of health care per employee to nearly $15,000, annually, according to the National Business Group on Health’s (NBGH) Large Employers’ Health Care Strategy and Plan Design Survey.

The NBGH survey is based on responses from 170 large U.S. employers that collectively provide health care benefits coverage to some19 million employees and their dependents.

The total health benefits cost, which includes premiums and out-of-pocket costs for employees and dependents, is estimated to be $14,099 per employee this year, and projected to rise to an average of $14,800 in 2019.

NBGH said employers would cover around 70 percent of those costs and employees the remaining 30 percent.

Other trends from the survey show that employers are cutting back on making Consumer Directed Health Plans (CDHPs) as their only health plan option. “In 2019, the number of employers offering CDHPs as the only option will drop from 39 percent to 30 percent, reflecting a move by employers to add health plan choices back into the mix,” the survey said.

On the issue of opioids, a majority of employers (55 percent) are very concerned over the impact of prescription opioid abuse on the workforce and are working with their health benefits partners to implement strategies to change prescribing patterns and to increase the utilization of nonopioids alternative therapies.

Employers said they foresee more health care delivery system changes as 35 percent of business owners are implementing alternative payment and delivery models such as accountable care organizations and high-performance networks either directly or through their health plan.

And, finally, the NBGH survey said employers like what they see in virtual health care, moving beyond traditional telehealth to provide employees with additional virtual care services. “More than three-quarters (78 percent) provide behavioral health services to employees virtually, and 65 percent provide health and lifestyle coaching services virtually,” NBGH said.

Digital solutions for musculoskeletal and physical therapy, sleep, diabetes management, prenatal care and coaching, and emotional and behavioral health show the greatest potential for growth over the next several years, the report said.

See www.businessgrouphealth.org for the full report.

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