Employers are grappling with holding down 2019 health insurance costs in a tight labor market. While expenses are likely to increase an average of 6% next year, employers are expected to tweak their plans to keep growth around 4%. That’s no small feat given the challenge these days to attract and retain workers. A recent survey by Mercer, a benefits consulting firm, found that two-thirds of workers say the health care a company offers is just as vital as pay when deciding where to work. So, employers will focus on strategies that don’t shift more costs to their employees but try to squeeze out more value for their dollars.
Managing high-cost patients is a top strategy, according to Mercer’s national survey of employer-sponsored health plans. Multimillion dollar claims for patients with complex medical issues are making up a bigger share of employers’ costs. More firms will offer patient advocate services to steer them to the right care at the right place at the right time. The idea is to avoid wasteful, unnecessary treatments while ensuring better care. “There may be five treatment options but maybe two or three have better outcomes,” says Sander Domaszewicz, a consultant with Mercer, a global consulting company. Paying for patients to get a second opinion is another popular move.
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