With an eye on both their employees’ health and their bottom line, multiemployer and public employer plans are rapidly embracing value-based health care — an outcome-driven, consumer-centered approach that focuses not on the dollars being spent, but on how those dollars can improve employees’ health.

A new survey released by the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans finds that in the last year, the number of multiemployer and public employer plans that consider their health and wellness offerings to be a part of a broader VBHC strategy more than doubled from 16% to 37%.

 “As employers strive to reduce their health care costs there has been an increasing interest in value-based health care,” says Sally Natchek, senior research director at the International Foundation. “The majority of organizations we surveyed are just beginning to take steps to provide the highest quality of health care for their dollars.”

When asked their current status regarding value-based health care, 15% of health care plans report they have just begun VBHC efforts and 23% say they have scattered initiatives. Just 3% state they have achieved a culture of health by integrating and evaluating their programs as part of an advanced VBHC strategy.

Similar to 2010, the number of health plans offering wellness initiatives remains strong at about three in five (63%), with public employers more likely to support these programs. The most prevalent initiatives are health screenings (76%), flu shots (75%), smoking-cessation programs (64%) and health risk assessments (59%).

Half of the health care plans surveyed report the utilization of a disease management program—and those offering wellness initiatives are more than twice as likely to offer these programs. The two most frequently targeted conditions for disease management — diabetes (88%) and heart disease (77%) — are also cited as the conditions having the most impact on productivity and health care costs. Obesity, currently targeted by 43% of organizations, is the top concern that health plans aim to address in the future.

Many organizations do not have strategies in place to educate workers on taking responsibility for their own health. Under half (44%) make price information on prescription drugs available, 21% provide information on the cost of hospital services and 17% on the cost of physicians services. Even fewer provide information on the quality and safety of hospitals, and the quality of physicians (15% and 12%, respectively).

 “Ideally a value-based health care strategy encourages each worker to take primary responsibility for their personal health and to be a wise consumer of health care services. To accomplish this goal, organizations need to focus on educating participants — stepping up both communication and education efforts,” says Natchek.

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