Up, Up and Away

Many Arizonans, like most Americans, receive health insurance benefits through their employers. A new study suggests the cost of getting your insurance through work will be going up again next year.

From National Public Radio (NPR):

Large employers expect health costs to continue rising by about 6 percent in 2017, a moderate increase compared with historical trends that nevertheless far outpaces growth in the economy, two new surveys show.

“These cost increases, while stable, are both unsustainable and unacceptable,” said Brian Marcotte, CEO of the National Business Group on Health, a coalition of very large employers that got responses from 133 companies.

According to the Fiscal Times, “In addition to price increases, the National Business Group on Health highlighted several other changes that insurers are making to their health plans that you may see in open enrollment this fall.”

1. Telehealth: The percentage of employers offering telehealth services is expected to increase from 70 percent this year to 90 percent in 2017 in states where it is allowed. The survey found that almost all employers expect to offer telehealth by 2020.

2. High-deductible plans: Also known as consumer-driven health plans, these low premium policies will be offered by 84 percent of employers next year, up from 83 percent this year. They will be the only option at more than a third of employers.

3. Nurse coaching: Eight in 10 employers will offer nurse coaching to employees for care and condition management, and 72 percent will offer nurse coaching for lifestyle management.

4. Specialized provider agreements: Employers will increase their arrangements with so-called “centers of excellence,” preferred health care providers that specialize in specific treatments. The survey found that 85 percent of employers will use centers of excellence, up from 79 percent last year, with the largest growth in centers that offer bariatric surgery, transplants and fertility treatments.

Becker’s Hospital Review pointed out that the rising cost of specialty drugs is the number one driver of healthcare expenses for large employers. Even though those specialty drugs are used by less than 4 percent of the population, 31 percent of employers in the survey listed them as the top concern for healthcare costs.

It should be pointed out that these increases, while significant, are less than the expected rate bump in premiums for those buying insurance under the Affordable Care Act (ACA). A recent Kaiser Family Foundation report suggested that ACA marketplace rates will rise about nine percent next year.

Share your thoughts on what these rising costs will mean for employers and workers here in Arizona. Do you believe innovative health ideas, such as telemedicine, will make a difference in communities around our state? Are there other ideas that might help as well? Generating these types of conversations is important if we hope to one day reach our long-term goal of making Arizona the Healthiest State in the Nation!

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