Health hikes force new decisions on benefit plan sponsors
Premium increases continue to motivate employers to consider cost-saving solutions they previously may have shunned, Paul Fetterolf, senior consultant and market leader of Arthur J. Gallagher, says, encouraging advisers to understand some of these augmenting strategies.
“Employers are considering things they wouldn’t have before, including self-funding, captives, PEOs,” he said while moderating a panel of industry experts at EBA’s Workplace Benefits Renaissance in Atlantic City this week.
Premium increases, he said, are being driven by myriad market occurrences, including the ACA, but especially by expensive specialty pharmaceuticals. Treatments are being created for diseases that previously had none and they are costly. Pharmaceuticals account for more than 9% of an employer’s overall health spend, he said.
“We must provide insights and solutions that drive employee engagement, change behaviors and create an environment of personal responsibility for healthcare,” Fetterolf told attendees.
“As trusted advisers, our clients are looking to us for a solution,” Kevin Kelleher, president of Kelleher Group and one of the panelists added.
His firm has been working with clients to introduce supplemental voluntary benefits and population health management techniques, as well as utilizing data analytics to cut costs.
“We’re using data analytics to make sure claims are being adjudicated properly and making sure clients are managing those costs effectively,” he said.
Telehealth solutions are also growing in popularity as a convenience tool and cost-savings measure, Jake Cleer, director of benefit solutions for New Benefits, told attendees during the panel discussion.
Almost 46% of employers are adopting a telehealth plan, according to a recent benchmark study from Towers Watson, he said. What’s more, he continued, 70% of employers are expected to adopt one by the end of this year and 90% of employers by 2018.
On average, the RAND Corporation found every redirection of care to telemedicine from the ER or doctor’s office saves an employer about $117 dollars, Cleer said. One of his clients was able to redirect an estimated $177,000 dollars in claims in one year, he said.
Implementing a telehealth plan, however, he said, should be coupled with a plan for utilization. Education about the service is paramount. Engagement and education should extend beyond open-enrollment and continue pre- and post-enrollment, he said.
“If it’s not driven from the top down, it’s not going to take flight."
Internal support from the C-suite is also imperative, Cleer told attendees.
“If it’s not driven from the top down, it’s not going to take flight,” he said, adding that executives he has worked with who have experienced first-hand the convenience and cost-savings of the use of telemedicine rarely push back against the idea of implementing a telehealth program.