Commentary: “The health care landscape is evolving.” That just might be the understatement of the decade. While the Affordable Care Act was certainly a catalyst for some of this change, employers began looking for innovative ways to change the traditional delivery and payment system long before the ACA was passed. Employers were beginning to implement initiatives such as consumer-driven health plans, wellness programs, and centers of excellence by the early 2000s.
These early efforts toward employer-driven innovation were largely inspired by the need to stem rising health care costs. They were new and creative ideas, and leading-edge employers were willing to give them a try — without large amounts of supporting data. Today, the ACA has facilitated the creation of numerous options for employers to fund health care, such as public and private exchanges. The ACA has also created additional layers of complexity with respect to coverage and program requirements.
After the passage of the ACA, many have speculated on whether or not employers will continue to provide health care benefits. A recent survey by the National Business Group on Health confirmed that employers remain committed to providing health care as a component of their overall benefits package. While there has been some movement into private exchanges, employers understand that regardless of how they choose to fund health care for their employees and their families, the health of their workforce is critical to the success of their business. As such, employers remain committed to managing employee health and its impact on their business.
In the current environment, employer decisions related to key health care strategies have become increasingly more complex. Employers need to ensure regulatory compliance, contain costs, drive value delivery, and determine the types of programs needed to address health issues within the workforce. And these concerns are only the beginning. Workplace culture, generational differences, and technology advancements, such as mobile health platforms and wearables, have an impact on the types of initiatives that will be effective. These factors also influence the communication strategies and tactics needed to drive engagement.
So, what’s an employer to do? A critical first step is to develop a solid analytic foundation on which to base a clear health and productivity strategy. For example, many organizations are analyzing data across multiple data sets in order to target health and wellness programs to specific populations. Analytics are also driving benefit design to ensure compliance with ACA requirements and determine potential liability under the Cadillac tax.
In short, analytics related to health and productivity have become increasingly important to employers as they move to more targeted strategies and programs, and ensure regulatory compliance. We will continue to see how analytics drive specific strategies in upcoming posts.
Phyllis Ruez is director, employer solutions with Verisk Health, where she is responsible for ensuring that Verisk Health’s products and services meet the changing needs of the employer market.
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