Several recent surveys indicate that U.S. employers expect healthcare costs to increase between 5.0% and 6.5% in 2018. As compared to the past several years, these projections reflect an upward increase in the rate of growth of healthcare costs:
- Willis Tower’s Watson’s Best Practices in Healthcare Employer Survey found that U.S. firms with that 1000 or more employees) expected healthcare costs to increase by 5.5% from 2017 to 2018. This increase compares to a 4.6% rise this year.
- In a separate survey, PwC concluded that medical costs will rise by 6.5% next year, up from a 6% increase this year.
- Finally, the National Business Group on Health’s, Large Employers' 2018 Health Care Strategy and Plan Design Survey, sought responses, primarily from Fortune 500 companies in May and June of 2017, and concluded that large employers anticipate the total cost of providing medical and pharmacy benefits to rise by 5% from 2017 to 2018.
A common element in these reports is the desire of employers to find ways to avoid shifting a greater cost burden to employees, by saving costs in ways that benefit employees. "One of the most interesting findings from the survey is that employers are focused on enhancing the employee experience," said Brian Marcotte, president and CEO of the National Business Group on Health.
- At the same time, 83% of health insurance brokers separately report that clients are looking to them to assist in controlling healthcare costs, while 78% of brokers said they had added new products and services to help employers control costs.
As employers look to minimize the escalating costs of employee benefits, high usage telemedicine is a service that fulfills this goal. For brokers, it’s can be a smart choice to bring to clients, who want to spend less but deliver greater value to employees. For employers, the right telemedicine benefit provides meaningful cost savings, above the expense of providing the service. For employees, convenient 24 x7, 365-day access to high quality physicians, for non-acute illnesses, leads to better health, enhanced productivity, and lower out-of-pocket healthcare expenses.
As brokers and benefit consultants consider the recommendations they will bring clients in 2018, it’s essential to recognize that not all telemedicine plans are created equal.
Indeed, most large employers already offer some type of telemedicine service, primarily through an offering that is embedded through their health insurance. Yet, the average industry usage rate for these carrier embedded plans is typically 2% or kess; leading to almost no employee use or employer savings, and no real value to the employer or the employee.
Most telemedicine companies also offer direct-to-employer sold plans. Sadly, the average usage rate of these employer-direct plans is also low: Typically estimated at about 7%. With such low use, the great majority of employer-sold plans similarly offer limited, if any real benefits, to employers or employees.
But there are a very small number of providers that are able to deliver utilization substantially higher than industry average. First Stop Health’s offering falls into this category.
First Stop Health’s industry leading usage rate of 50%, means our service delivers signficant annual healthcare savings for employers, while employees enjoy the convenience of 24 x 7 x 365 day a year access to quality physicians from any location: Two-hour mid-day visits to the doctor are avoided; Convenient, unlimited access ensures employees don’t delay seeking care because they are too busy or it’s too expensive; And employee stress (the number one health and productivity concern for 75% of employers) is dramatically reduced. For example, unnecessary, expensive and high stress emergency room visits are avoided as anxious working parents are reassured in the middle of the night, by a First Stop Health physician, that their crying child does not need to immediately visit the Emergency Room (and the child is either treated immediately or the doctor tells the anxious parents they can wait to visit the doctor the next day).
For employees, telemedicine is often a better treatment experience: With high quality care, conveniently avalable at any time, and an average doctor call-back of five minutes. For employers, our high usage rate means that our service brings clients an average ROI of 105%.
Finally, First Stop Health is the only telemedicine provider to offer a savings guarantee (the healthcare cost savings our service generates will equal or exceed the expense of our service, or we provide a refund). Our sophisticated engagement tools, can be customized to the specific needs of each client, and rapidly build employee awareness, use, and terrific word of mouth.
If you are one of the 83% of brokers with clients looking for advice on how to reduce healthcare expenses while enhancing employee experiences, investigate recommending First Stop Health. We want to help you succeed in bringing the best solutions to your client. If you don’t, it's certainly possible – in today’s ultra-competitive world—that one of your competitors will.