Have you noticed an increase in healthcare costs year over year? You aren’t alone. 

As annual claims reports come in from your health plans and insurance benefits consultants, employers are seeing a steady increase in costs per contract across main subscribers, spouses, and dependents. 

According to SHRM, US employers are anticipating their group health plan premiums to increase by an average increase of 5%; health claims costs are also expected to rise in 2022. The general thought is that costs are quickly returning to pre-COVID levels. 

In fact, Willis Towers Watson’s found in their employer survey that the total average employer cost rose in 2022 to an estimated $13,360 per employee. While this change isn’t nearly as drastic as the nearly 15% increase in 2002, it comes at a time when inflation and economic shifts are looming. 

For self-insured group plans, you, as the employer, are very likely looking at increased costs for health claims in the coming year. 

If you are looking to effectively manage population health and reduce claims costs, we’ve got a full study ready for you. Here, we’ll dive into a high-level overview of what the core concerns are and what others are implementing to address population health for their employees. 

Core population health concerns for employers

While healthcare costs will vary greatly based on employee populations, some of the most costly care and treatments are associated with chronic conditions. And in many instances, preventative care combined with health risk assessments could mitigate costs. 

The most common chronic conditions seen in workforces today include: 

  • Mental illnesses, such as depression and anxiety
  • Hypertension
  • Diabetes
  • Cardiovascular conditions
  • Cancer

It is estimated that chronic conditions alone cost $4.1 trillion in health care costs each year. But not all population health concerns cost the same amount.

A recent study by Health Action Council and UnitedHealthcare found that five specific conditions make up 50% of healthcare costs: cancer, musculoskeletal, cardiovascular, gastrointestinal, and neurological. Within each condition, large portions of the costs are associated with specific treatments, such as chemotherapy, or medication. 

  • Cancer - 15%
  • Musculoskeletal conditions - 13%
  • Cardiovascular conditions - 9%
  • Gastrointestinal concerns - 7% 
  • Neurological conditions - 6%

These specific chronic conditions are costing US employers $36.4 billion every year due to missed work and sick days. While the data can seem a bit bleak, that isn’t where the story ends. 

As you are likely discussing with your insurance benefits consultant or with your health plan directly, there are actions you can take to reduce costs, increase engagement, and improve processes. 

Many leading employers are using their designated “wellness dollars” to take action through the implementation of: 

  • Point solutions to address specific concerns or conditions
  • Digital health and wellbeing tools
  • Employee engagement campaigns to encourage use of wellbeing programs
  • Re-framing care management with apps and platforms
  • Employee wellness challenges with incentives (i.e. steps challenges)
  • Encouraging preventative care with wellness days
  • Clear resources to detail available benefits and care
  • Extending wellbeing care for employee family members too

Not all digital health solutions will work for your employees

MercerMarsh did a global employee study and found that employees who felt particularly supported by their employers over the past two years are 44% less likely to leave their job. 

As employees express their priorities in an employer, many organizations that want to attract and retain top talent are listening and beginning to offer more robust wellbeing programs. This is both for the benefit of their employees and the employers so they can address rising healthcare prices. US healthcare spending during 2019 was nearly $3.8 trillion, $11,582 per person. By 2028, it is expected to climb to $6.2 trillion, $18,000 per person.

So why are traditional wellbeing programs not working for organizations? Well, traditional programs fall short in a few places, namely they:

  • Focus on the symptoms: Many initiatives are curative, not preventative. They focus on the ill health that already exists rather than trying to prevent it from occurring. 
  • Don’t appeal to everyone: Many aspects of wellness are often ignored in favor of physical health. Chronic conditions and disabilities are dealt with as a one-off.
  • Offer minimal choice and flexibility: Wellness programs are rigid, meaning individuals have little opportunity to adjust to their interests and preferences.
  • Lack DEI focus: Wellness and DE&I have been high priorities for 2+ years but are rarely aligned. Wellness misses the mark when it comes to inclusion.
  • Provide insufficient social support: Social connection, friends and family aren’t considered in wellness initiatives. Individuals are left to make changes alone.
  • Forget culture: How the organizational environment impacts a wellness initiative's success is not taken into account.

How can you improve population health management for your employees?

Not all digital health solutions will help your employees improve their health. We’ve done a deep dive into what is and isn’t working for employers, just like you. 

There are also some suggestions within to help you start engaging your employees more effectively with your corporate wellness solutions. Plus, we’ve got some questions you should ask corporate wellness solutions you are considering. 

We are here to support you, every step of the way, as you create a culture of wellness and work to provide better population health management. Let us know if you want to chat through ideas or answer any questions you have.