According to findings from our 21st annual Best Practices in Health Care Employer Survey conducted in the summer of 2016, employers’ confidence that they will offer benefits 10 years from now rose to 54% in 2016 from 44% last year, more than double the lowest confidence levels in 2012 (23%). Even as questions grow about the law’s future, employers continue to focus on controlling costs and adopting solutions to improve the effectiveness of their health care programs.
Standing out from the crowd is a small group of best performers that are gaining significant competitive advantage by creating and leveraging best practices, especially superior network and provider contracting strategies, to control costs and improve workforce health. Throughout this report, we identify specific tactics that best-performing companies are doing much more than the national average or other organizations — best practices focused on our seven core areas driven by participation, subsidization and efficiency:
- Program design value and subsidy level
- Vendor partner strategies
- Health care delivery
- Pharmacy management
- Workforce health
- Engagement and consumerism
Figure 1. Willis Towers Watson framework for best practices for a high-perfoming health plan
Over the next three years, employers’ top priority is managing pharmacy costs, specifically specialty drugs (88%) (Figure 2). Employers are taking note of new U.S. Food and Drug Administration approvals of specialty drugs, including the new biologics. In 2015, first-time drug approvals in the U.S. reached a 19-year high with 77% for new specialty drugs, compared with 68% in 2014.
Figure 2. Employers’ top priorities over the next three years
As the majority of employers become much more aggressive about strategies to control costs and improve program effectiveness, a number of emerging trends continue to evolve in the above areas that make up the Willis Towers Watson framework for best practices for a high-performing health plan.
Figure 3. Specialty pharmacy strategies