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Employers combat healthcare costs through HSAs, well-being and pharmacy benefit measures

Vast majority of employers plan to focus on employee well-being, clinical conditions, employee experience and health IT, study says.

Jeff Lagasse, Associate Editor

Healthcare costs are on the rise, and employers across the country expect this trend to continue for the next couple years or so. There are, however, some strategies these companies are using to control those costs.

A new survey from Willis Towers Watson sheds light on some these strategies, finding that 85 percent of the 687 employers surveyed plan to focus on clinical conditions, improving health and reducing costs for key clinical areas such as cancer, diabetes, maternity, mental health and musculoskeletal disease.


Though companies expect a slight upswing in healthcare cost increases over the next two years or so, cost trends remain at or below 5 percent after plan changes, the survey found. This is due, in part, to the maturing of account-based health plans, a strategy that combines a group health insurance plan with an employee flexible spending account or health savings account.

Another key finding is that employer confidence in offering health benefits in 10 years remains strong, and in fact that confidence is close to its highest level in 15 years.


Another significant chunk of respondents, 82 percent, reported they plan to focus on employee wellbeing, promoting measures that improve physical, emotional, financial and social health.

Employee experience was another popular focal point, at least for 72 percent of respondents. The idea is to improve employee perceptions about the workplace culture, particularly the technological and physical environments.

The survey also found that employers proactively manage pharmacy benefit costs with particular emphasis on specialty pharmacy utilization, although there are still significant opportunities to adjust plan designs and implement coverage changes.

Health technology is a big focus for these companies. More than half prioritize health technology solutions -- connected devices, enhanced enrollment and an integrated platform -- as important over the next three years to improve the delivery of care, health analytics and the consumer experience.


The employers that measure the impact of their health and wellbeing initiatives -- currently only 46 percent have a measurement strategy -- should gain momentum and an advantage in achieving a healthy, high-performing workforce., the survey found.

Twitter: @JELagasse
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