Employers Focused on Engagement, Healthy Living Initiatives

Dallas — March 20

Texas employers are increasingly sharing accountability and decision-making with employees when it comes to health care, according to a survey of more than 70 large and mid-size employers who provide health benefits for more than 1 million people across the state and nationally.

Conducted by the nonprofit Texas Business Group on Health, the research aims to provide insight into new strategies being adopted by employers to improve employee health and productivity and manage increasing health-related costs through plan design, cost-sharing and employee engagement.

The survey also found that employers are increasingly turning to high-deductible consumer-directed health plans (CDHPs) and using strategic communications initiatives to provide members with new tools and resources to engage and empower them to actively choose healthy lifestyles and make savvy, knowledge-based health care decisions.

The survey’s other findings include:

Health maintenance organization enrollment remains very low among Texas employers — at less than 1 percent in 2013 — and participation in indemnity, point-of-service and exclusive provider organizations will drop precipitously and account for less than 6 percent of total covered lives.

Preferred provider organization and CDHPs will absorb the migrating plan members, with CDHPs growing in both numbers and percentage of total enrollees — from 18.5 percent in 2012 to 24.7 percent in 2013 — as more employers adopt these account-based, high-deductible plans and encourage enrollment.

With increasing popularity of CDHPs, employers are focusing on employee engagement, wellness and healthy living as the most effective strategy to improve health and productivity and to control the rate of acceleration of medical costs, according to the survey.

Drug benefits comprise a significant portion of total medical expenses, and many employers actively manage their pharmacy benefits to promote quality and cost-effective therapeutic treatment, most often with a preferred drug list, step therapy and prior authorization for certain drugs. In 2013 almost 20 percent of surveyed employers will waive deductibles, co-pays and co-insurance to encourage treatment compliance for certain conditions.

Employers continue to align incentives and penalties with employee participation in health education and wellness programs. They are also increasingly tying inducements to achievement of targeted health goals and behaviors and expanding eligibility to dependents and non-covered employees.

Employers are committed to adopting strategic wellness programs to improve the engagement, competence and accountability of individual employees, the survey said, and they plan to supplement print and email communications and on-site health fairs and screenings with less traditional engagement strategies. This includes “gamification,” incorporating gaming features within wellness strategies to add fun and rewards for successful performance.

About 70 percent of survey respondents reported a commitment from senior management and an adequate budget to execute a comprehensive health and wellness program 2013; 85 percent expect to have such support by 2014.

Source: Texas Business Group on Health