ChartsEmployers are stepping up by taking control of health care costs by planning changes to their health care plans, this according to a recent survey  conducted by Towers Watson, titled 2014 Health Care Changes Ahead.

In an article from Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM), they highlight the results from this survey completed in the summer of 2014 by nearly 380 employee benefit professionals in midsize to large companies.

The survey indicated that employers expect to see an average 4 percent increase in 2015 health plan costs for employee coverage after making plans design changes. If no plan design changes are made, the increase will be 5.2 percent.

A rather large percentage of employers (81 percent) plan to make changes to their health care plan over the next three years to curb spending. These changes may include:

  • Specialty pharmacy management strategies of adding price and utilization relating to pharmaceutical spend. The survey found that 66 percent of employers will start to use eligibility and/or utilization restrictions as part of their specialty pharmacy strategy.
  • Telemedicine for virtual physician office visits, which is expected to reach 37 percent adoption in 2015 with hopes of improving access and efficiency of care delivery.
  • New payment approaches that hold providers accountable for health outcomes and cost of care.

Long-term changes to control health care costs include:

  • Offering an account-based consumer-directed health plan (CDHP) also known as a high-deductible plan with a health savings account. Only 17 percent of companies today offer a CDHP to their employees. That’s expected to grow at least 4 percent in 2015 and another 28 percent over 2016 and 2017.
  • Tying incentives to reaching a specific health outcome such as biometric goals.
  • Offering a higher level of benefit based on the use of high-performance or narrow networks of medical providers.
  • Nearly 76 percent of employers are looking into the use of mobile health applications and fitness wearables.
  • 60 percent of employers will place an emphasis on data and metrics to evaluate health benefit performance and behavior change.

To learn more about the survey results, read the article produced by SHRM and download the survey in its entirety.