By Marsha Johnson - Content Marketing Strategy Leader

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Five key employer health benefit trends that you need to know

September 25, 2017

If you are one of the many Minnesotans who receive health insurance through your employer, it’s important to know the trends and factors employers consider when creating your health benefits plan.

The reality is that soaring health care costs have made it necessary for employers to change what today’s health plans look like. Employers are now seeking new ways to ensure health benefits can remain affordable, while providing new offerings to help their employees stay as healthy as possible.

“More aggressive and leading-edge changes to employee health benefit programs are necessary to control costs and help employees actively participate in staying healthy,” said Brooks Deibele, president, commercial group markets.

The cost realities

As more new drugs enter the market, they are on the shelf at an all-time high cost per prescription. The availability of specialty drugs and advanced care makes treating highly complex conditions extremely expensive. The broad, open-access networks without benefit steerage historically leveraged by employers may no longer be affordable. Employers feel the pinch, but so do workers who want help managing their health, stress and finances.

“Blue Cross is committed to help employers work through this challenging reality,” Deibele said. “Our aim is to help employers manage their costs, while helping them find innovative new ways to improve their employees’ overall health and productivity. With that goal in mind, we chose to create a new guide for large group employers to help them understand best practices to achieve these goals.”

Five key health benefit strategies for businesses

Blue Cross recently released a guide to help benefits managers address the challenges they face in today’s marketplace. Below are five strategies from the guide that will help employers understand how to control health costs.

  1. Manage the cost of specialty drugs with integrated benefits. According to the AARP Public Policy Institute, the annual spend for specialty drugs is expected to reach $400 billion by 2020. Integrating medical and pharmacy benefits will lead to more coordinated services, greater ability to control costs and, ultimately, better health outcomes.
  2. Lower costs with newer medical network options. To do this, implement new networks that are focused on reducing costs and improving outcomes. Known as high-performance networks, they aim to reduce hospital re-admissions, complications and follow up operations. To date, they have led to a 20 percent savings for employers.
  3. Better manage high-cost claims. Care management strategies for highly complex conditions are critical. In fact, half of the health care spending in one year comes from five percent of the U.S. population, according to the National Institute of Health Care Management Foundation. To better manage these high cost claims, it is effective to have a cross-functional care team work directly with members and their medical and pharmacy providers. Together this group can focus on quality care and appropriate services. In addition, effective clinical management also addresses costly issues like medical fraud.
  4. Enhance health plans with dental, vision and voluntary benefits. Studies show that oral and eye health affect overall health conditions, such as heart disease, osteoporosis and diabetes. Therefore, encouraging employees to take care of their mouths, teeth and eyes is important to avoid costly related conditions. In addition, employers have reported that dental and vision plans— or voluntary benefits like accident, life, critical illness and disability insurance—add value and convenience for their employees.
  5. Invest in holistic health and wellbeing. Stress is the top health and productivity concern of 75 percent of U.S. employers, according to a study from Willis Towers Watson, a global business management consulting firm. Therefore, holistic health and wellbeing in the workplace needs to address physical, emotional and financial health. New online programs have proven to help employees manage stress, anxiety and depression. In addition, incentives, resources and tools are shown to help employees take an active role in managing their health, which can also improve their productivity.

Editor’s note: If you are an employer  with 100 or more employees and would like to get a full copy of this guide to support your business, please email us at


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