The results are in for the most recent iteration of the North Carolina Healthcare Benefits and Cost Survey, and there are some interesting results across the board.
The bottom line is something that won’t surprise anyone – healthcare costs continue to rise, and employers continue to find new ways to try and mitigate those costs. There are still no silver bullets when it comes to keeping healthcare costs low, but this survey provides some insight into how exactly employers across the state are deploying strategies to deal with them.
Among the more interesting results were the responses to questions that were being posed in the survey for the very first time in 2016. While we don’t have year over year trend data for these issues, it is clear that employers are beginning to adopt new strategies that haven’t been popular until very recently. Those first time questions included general cost containment strategies, as well as more specific strategies related to spousal coverage and wellness. Here are some compelling results:
- Nearly 40% of North Carolina employers surveyed have implemented a wellness program, and 27% of employers are incentivizing their employees financially for participating in those programs
- 6 % of employers surveyed are going beyond participation, and are incentivizing employees for achieving certain health outcomes in their wellness programs.
- 36% of employers are using data and analytics tools to review their plan designs, analyze claims data, and monitor progress. Among employers with 100 or more employees, that number goes up to 53.6% using these tools.
- 96% of employers surveyed continue to offer coverage for spouses of employees – so only four percent are excluding spouses entirely. However, of employers that do offer spousal coverage, 6.8% have a surcharge in place for spouses to elect that coverage. Employers that do have a spousal surcharge in place are charging an average monthly surcharge of $137.89.
Beyond those newer cost containment strategies, employers are also looking to more tried and true methods to control their costs. Making changes in plan design and funding methods continue to be cost containment strategies that NC employers are looking to.
- Perhaps the most notable year over year trend in the data is the consistent move among North Carolina employers toward Consumer Driven Health Plans (CDHP). Looking all the way back to 2010, just 14.3% of employers were offering some type of CDHP. In 2016, 40.8% of employers are offering a CDHP – either as a standalone option, or as a choice for employee health care.
- Many employers continue to value traditional plan design, 62.6% of employers surveyed only offering a traditional design. 11.1% of those surveyed offered a CDHP exclusively, and 26.3% of employers are offering both plan designs. Still, they number of traditional plans is falling – with employers offering a traditional plan in some capacity decreasing by 15.2% over 204-2015.
- For employers who are maintaining a traditional plan, one place that we’ve seen specific benefit reductions year over year is the in-network deductible in traditional plans. That benefit has been shrinking dramatically, as the average deductible has risen by about 13% annually since 2010.
- The amount of employers that are self-funding their employee health care is growing. In 2015, 25.9% of those surveyed indicated that they were self-funding their plan, and that number grew to 27.4% in 2016. That amounts to 6.1% growth in self-funded plans over the course of one year.
Clearly, employers have a wide variety of ideas and opportunities to impact their healthcare costs. But there are no silver bullets - no one option is the right option, and no one option is right for every company. At Hill, Chesson & Woody we partner with our clients to understand their businesses, their cultures, and their needs in order to develop a custom strategy for managing their employee benefits. We’d love to help your business navigate this ever changing and increasingly complex marketplace. Contact us to learn how your employee benefits stack up in your own marketplace, and to learn more about how HCW can guide you to a strategy that compliments your future business goals.