90% of US employers to offer virtual health services to staff in 2017


The majority (90%) of US employer respondents will make telehealth services, such as virtual monitoring and data transmission and telephone support, available to employees in states where it is allowed next year, according to research by the National Business Group on Health. This compares to 70% in 2016.

Its Large employers’ 2017 health plan design survey, which surveyed 133 large US employers, also found that 80% of respondents plan to offer employees access to nurse coaching for care and condition management.

The research also found:

  • 84% of respondents will offer a consumer-directed health plan (CDHP) in 2017, where employees are required to make active decisions about their healthcare cover, and 35% plan to only offer this option to staff next year.
  • 33% of respondents will have surcharges in place for spouses who can obtain coverage through their own employer.
  • 72% of respondents plan to offer employees nurse coaching for lifestyle management in 2017.
  • 65% of respondents will provide employees with self-service decision making tools.
  • 80% of respondents cite speciality pharmacy as one of the top three highest cost drivers for healthcare benefits, followed by high-cost claimants (73%), and specific diseases and conditions (61%).

Brian Marcotte, president and chief executive officer at the National Business Group on Health, said: “Controlling health benefits costs remains a high priority for large employers. 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. These cost increases, while stable, are both unsustainable and unacceptable.

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“Interestingly, current estimates have health insurance premiums for the average public exchange plan increasing by at least 10%, about twice what large employers are projecting for next year. This is a clear indication that the employer-based healthcare model continues to be the most effective way to provide health insurance coverage to employees and their families.

“Employers’ focus in 2017 is shifting away from plan design to optimising how healthcare is accessed and delivered. That translates into expanded telehealth services, more centers of excellence options and optional selective network choices that focus on providing higher quality healthcare.”