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Five Ways to Lessen the Blow of Higher Health Plan Costs in 2022

Number Crunching

Overall costs for healthcare claims are expected to rise next year. Employers across the country say they’re bracing for their group plan premiums to go up around 5% in 2022, and that’s after taking into account some cost management strategies.

Coupled with this is the projected rise in consumer price index or inflation. CPI is normally around 2-2.5%, but next year could be higher than the projected increase in medical costs. Health insurers are forecasting higher premiums based on data collected from the Willis Towers Watson’s 2021 Best Practices in Health Care Survey.

With responses from nearly 400 US employers between June and July of this year, the survey projects a 5.2% increase in health plan costs next year, which is significantly higher than that 2% increase employees saw in 2020. That small uptick was something of an anomaly though, health insurers say, noting the impact of the pandemic and people’s choice to embrace telemedicine and forgo emergency care unless absolutely necessary.

Continuing to embrace telemedicine as a form of care could lessen the blow next year when prices rise. And there are other things that both employers and employees can do to save:

  1. Telebehavioral health. 89% of employers are offering coverage for telebehavioral mental health services, like therapy or counseling for alcohol or drug abuse, and 7% are planning to do so.
  2. Onsite health promotions. 55% of employers offer onsite health and wellness activities, and 17% are considering implementing such programs.
  3. Centers of excellence. Nearly 50% of employers use centers of excellence within their health plans. By paying a higher share of costs for coverage received at high-quality, cost-effective clinics, they can reduce overall costs.
  4. Specialty drugs. More than half of employers evaluate specialty drug costs and the outcomes of those drugs through their medical plan.
  5. Narrow networks. 30% of employers are considering limiting their in-network doctors and hospitals to higher-quality and/or lower-cost health care providers. Currently, 21% offer narrow networks.

While experts say the imbalanced rise in both CPI and health plans is likely, if not unavoidable, employers who stay engaged in their company’s plans can mitigate some of the burden.


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