Survey: 59% of large employer health plans offered telemedicine services in 2016

Employers are finding new ways to account for employees increased enrollment in high-deductible consumer-directed health plans, according to a Mercer report on employer-sponsored health plans in 2016.

In 2015, enrollment in high-deductible consumer-directed health plans encompassed 25 percent of covered employees; in 2016, that number rose to 29 percent. Meanwhile, the average total health benefit cost per employee increased by only 2.4 percent in 2016, which is one of the lowest increases in the past two decades.

However, more employers are now covering telemedicine services; 59 percent of large employers offered telemedicine in 2016, compared to only 30 percent in 2015. Mercer hypothesizes that this trend toward telemedicine is to help cut costs in light of recent high-deductible health plans, since the typical charge for a telemedicine visit is $40, while the typical charge for an office visit is $125.

Employers have also worked to cut healthcare costs through price transparency tools. In 2016, 28 percent of large employers contracted with a specialty vendor to provide online resources to employees looking to compare provider price and quality; in 2015, only 15 percent of large employers did. This past year, 62 percent of large employers also said their health plan provided a transparency tool.

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