Large companies face 6% increase in 2017 employee healthcare costs: 7 key findings

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A majority of big employers will see a 6 percent increase in employee premium costs next year, fueled by rising pharmacy and healthcare expenses, a National Business Group on Health annual survey found.

"Controlling health benefits costs remains a high priority for large employers," Brian Marcotte, president and CEO of the National Business Group on Health, said. "While employers have been able to keep increases in check for the past few years, costs are still running at more than twice the rate of inflation and general wage increases, thereby threatening affordability."

National Business Group's survey results are based on responses from 133 large U.S. companies offering insurance to more than 15 million Americans.

Here are seven key findings from the survey:

1. Thirty-one percent of respondents said specialty pharmacy represented their highest healthcare cost. In comparison, 6 percent of respondents to the 2014 annual survey cited pharmacy as their highest healthcare cost.

2. In general, 80 percent of employers said pharmacy was one of their top three highest expenses, followed by cost claimants (73 percent) and specific diseases and conditions (61 percent).

3. Next year, 90 percent of employers will offer telehealth services to employees in states where it is permitted, a jump from 70 percent this year.

4. Eighty-four percent of employers will offer high-deductible health plans next year, a slight bump from 83 percent this year. Thirty-five percent of employers will only offer HDHPs next year, up from 33 percent this year.

5. In 2017, one-third of employers will have surcharges for spouses who can gain coverage through their own employer, which is about the same as this year.

6. Eighty percent of respondents plan to offer their employees nurse coaching for care management and 72 percent will offer nurse coaching for lifestyle management.

7. Sixty-five percent of employers surveyed will give employees self-service tools to help them make their own healthcare decisions.

More articles about payer issues:
Judge sets Anthem-Cigna trial date, says ruling unlikely in 2016
Thousands of Kansas state employees face between 9% and 30% premium hikes
Medical University Hospital sues BlueCross BlueShield of SC for alleged nonpayment

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