Remote work and remote healthcare are becoming the norm during the COVID-19 pandemic. Companies across the country sent their employees home in the early months of the outbreak and those who are able to continue working from home are still doing so.
Likewise, healthcare has shifted to the telehealth model for everyone’s safety and well-being, and because on-site clinics are no longer convenient for these remote employees. COVID-19 has affected the revenue cycle of on-site clinics, although the number of such clinics is still projected to grow.
Healthcare costs also continue to rise. The 2021 Large Employers’ Health Care Strategy and Plan Design Survey, conducted by the Business Group on Health, found that the total cost of health benefits is expected to rise 5.3% in 2021, taking cost management initiatives into account.
The increase is slightly higher than the 5% increases employers projected in each of the last five years. Including premiums and out-of-pocket costs for employees and dependents, the total cost of health care is estimated to be $14,769 per employee this year, an increase of $197 from last year. The total cost is projected to rise to an average of just over $15,500 in 2021. In line with recent years, employers will cover nearly 70% of costs while employees will bear about 30%, or nearly $4,700.
Ellen Kelsay, Business Group on Health President and CEO, says, “Health care costs are a moving target and one that employers continue to keep a close eye on. The pandemic has triggered delays in both preventive and elective care, which could mean the projected trend for this year may turn out to be too high. If care returns to normal levels in 2021, the projected trend for next year may prove to be too low. It’s difficult to know where cost increases will land.”
In terms of the current shift to telehealth, the survey found that virtual care may continue to increase even after the COVID-19 pandemic is over. Eight in ten respondents (80%) believe virtual health will play a significant role in how care is delivered in the future, a sharp increase from 64% last year and 52% in 2018. Additionally, over half (52%) will offer more virtual care options next year.
Elation Health offers a Telehealth Guide to help your practice make the transition successfully. Access it here.
Other significant findings from the survey include:
- More employers are linking health care with workforce strategy: The number of employers who view their health care strategy as an integral part of their workforce strategy increased from 36% in 2019 to 45% this year.
- Growing interest in advanced primary care strategies: Over half of respondents (51%) will have at least one advanced primary care strategy next year up from 46% in 2020. These primary care arrangements, which move toward patient-centered population health management emphasizing prevention, chronic disease management, mental health, and whole person care are key focus areas for employers.
- Employers remain concerned about high-cost drug therapies. Two-thirds of respondents (67%) cited the impact of new million-dollar treatments as their top pharmacy benefits management concern.
- On-site clinics continue to grow: Nearly three in four respondents (72%) either have a clinic in place or will by 2023. Some employers are expanding services – 34% offer primary care services at the worksite, and an additional 26% plan to have this service available by 2023.