7 things to know about large US employers' 2018 healthcare spending predictions

Large U.S. employers estimate healthcare costs per worker will increase to an average $14,156 in 2018, compared to $13,482 per employee this year, a recent National Business Group on Health survey found.

The report — "Large Employers' 2018 Health Care Strategy and Plan Design Survey" — featured responses from 148 large employers covering more than 15 million employees and dependents. NBGH conducted the survey between May and June.

Here are seven findings from the report. 

1. In 2018, large U.S. employers expect medical and pharmacy benefit costs to increase 5 percent for the fifth consecutive year.

2. Employers anticipate covering 70 percent of medical benefit costs in 2018, while employees will shoulder about 30 percent, or roughly $4,400.

3. Specialty pharmacy costs reflect the top driver of employers' medical expenses for the second year in a row.

4. Next year, 96 percent of employers will provide access to telehealth services in states it is allowed, respondents reported. Fifty-six percent of employers intend to offer telehealth services for behavioral health in 2018, which is more than double the percentage this year.

5. Employers' use of ACOs could double by 2020, NBGH's survey revealed. Twenty-one percent of employer respondents will promote ACOs in 2018, and another 26 percent are thinking about offering ACOs.

6. Onsite and near-site health centers are gaining traction among large employers, with 54 percent planning to offer the services in 2018.

7. Eighty-eight percent of employers expect to use centers of excellence in 2018 for transplant and orthopedic surgery, among other procedures. Between 21 percent and 48 percent of centers of excellence will deploy bundled payment or other alternative payment models, according to the report. 

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