A new PwC report reveals that rising medical costs are settling into a “new normal” of more modest year-over-year increases. The study, which measures anticipated spending growth in the employer-based health insurance market, projects that a 10-year period of volatility and double-digit increases in medical expenditure is now coming to an end. PwC predicts a stabilizing trend beginning next year, with more modest, single-digit increases in the years ahead.
The study authors are quick to point out, however, while costs will rise more slowly, healthcare spending will continue to outpace economic growth, resulting in an unsustainable trend. Healthcare will continue to take up a greater share of the economy, the authors note, which limits both government and individual spending power. The report explains that many factors impact healthcare spending trends, including both economy-wide and healthcare-specific drivers. Examples include changes in income, demographics, lifestyle, technology and treatment innovation, consolidation, government regulations and payment models.
One unanticipated cost driver is employees’ reaction to rising costs. For several years, employers have responded to rising medical expenses by increasing cost-sharing with employees. And when employees are unable to afford higher costs, they respond by engaging in the healthcare system less. From 2011 to 2016, the average health premium for family coverage purchased through an employer rose 20 percent. But in the same period, wages increased by just 11 percent, limiting employees’ ability to afford the rising cost of care.
To avoid these higher out-of-pocket expenses, employees are not getting the preventive care they need. While lower utilization of services has worked to offset immediate rising costs, the longer term result is a higher incidence of otherwise preventable conditions, and the costly, long-term treatment associated with them — costs which burden individuals, employers and health plans.
However, several trends are helping slow increases in medical costs. According to the study, the key deflators for 2018 include increasing pressure on pharmaceutical companies for rising prices, which is starting to result in lower prices and cheaper alternatives. In addition, employers are working to utilize efficient methods and technologies to manage the health of their employees, in turn eliminating wasteful spending.
Given this information, it is key for employers to continue to find meaningful ways to help control rising medical costs, beyond placing the bulk of the costs on employees. One way BioIQ can help employers do this is by empowering them to create engaging wellness programs and inspire their workforce to improve their health as we begin a new year.
BioIQ’s latest release includes new tools that enable organizations to create more effective wellness and health screening programs. BioIQ offers organizations a comprehensive toolset for driving engagement before, during and after a screening program through an enhanced digital health coaching app for program participants, an updated health assessment, and security enhancements to BioIQ HealthSync.
To learn how BioIQ can help your organization stay ahead of 2018 healthcare costs through preventive health screening programs, call (888) 818-1594 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.