• Employers have new options and strategies for reducing employees’
health care costs, such as offering self-insured plans and providing
advocacy and transparency services that shop for best prices.
• Ensuring participants understand their benefits helps them make wiser
decisions, which include thinking more about retirement saving.
• An employee’s benefit objectives vary, based on his evolving personal
demographic—supplying him with a pool of money to invest in his
choice of benefits lets him meet his changing needs.
about where to do a price comparison;
what websites and tools are available to
help them get the best price; what questions they should be asking doctors or
pharmacists; and how to choose a source
of general care, telemedicine or urgent
care, etc. Buckey thinks employees would
be more than happy to comparison shop
for health care services because they do so
for everything else.
In addition, more and more employers
are signing on for advocacy and transparency services. For example, if an employee
needs a knee replacement, an advocate
would call around to see where it could be
obtained, then present the employee with
three options, including quality ratings
and prices. “Choosing the least expensive
option will save both the employer and
employee money,” Buckey observes.
Another change over recent years,
she says, is in more employers moving to
a self-insured plan, where they assume
the financial risk for providing health
benefits to their employees. Taking this
consumer approach will have an immediate impact, Buckey says, and for some,
that will make this type of plan cost-effective.
Other strategies that employers now
use to cut costs for health benefits, says the
Best Practices in Health Care Employer
Survey by Willis Towers Watson, include
using centers of excellence—health care
providers identified as the most expert
and cost-efficient and as producers of
the best outcomes for specific diseases or
conditions. Further, some employers are
using high-performance networks—i.e.,
narrow networks of high-quality health
The survey also found that some
employers now select health providers
based on competitiveness of discounts,
network access or cost of care.
Finally, over the last 10 years, employers have increasingly adopted physical
wellness programs. Helping employees
manage their health means they will
need to use their medical benefits less
often. —Rebecca Moore
According to its survey of 678 U.S. employers, performed this past
June through July, Willis Towers Watson found that the following
actions will be priorities over the next three years.
Encouraging employees to use preferred health care
delivery options, specifically:
• Telemedicine for office visits – 78% of employers currently use these
consultations, with another 16% planning to, or considering using
them, by 2019.
• Centers of excellence within health plans – 44% of employers currently
use these, with another 33% planning to, or considering using them,
• High-performance networks – 15% of employers currently use these,
with another 36% planning to, or considering using them, by 2019.
Selecting carriers and vendors based on:
• Competitiveness of negotiated provider discounts – 94%
• Competitiveness of vendor’s network access – 94%
• Competitiveness of vendor’s total cost of care – 92%
Curbing pharmacy costs and utilization by:
• Evaluating pharmacy benefit contract terms – 62% of employers
are currently doing so, with another 32% planning to, or considering
doing so, by 2019.
• Adopting new coverage or utilization restrictions as part of specialty
pharmacy strategy – 60% of employers recently adopted these
restrictions, with another 24% planning to, or considering doing
so, by 2019.
• Addressing specialty drug costs and utilization performance through
medical benefits – 44% of employers currently do so with another
38% planning to, or considering doing so, by 2019.
Source: Willis Towers Watson, Best Practices in Health Care Employer Survey