Reconstructing Health Care

Graphic by | Joan McGuire

As the feds waffle on health care policy, employers take charge. We dive into the wonky world of private-sector insurance plans and the booming business of wellness programming.

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Few executives will argue that the U.S. health care system isn’t broken.

The cost of providing employer-sponsored health plans for employees continues to rise annually. Federal policies on employer health coverage are constantly in flux, making planning a nightmare. Plan administrators had only begun to adapt to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act when President Donald Trump announced his intent to scrap it and start over.

As the Republicans struggle to find consensus on health care reform, employers face difficult choices. How much should be budgeted for employee coverage next year? How much of the cost should be shifted onto employees before my plan becomes a recruiting/retention liability?

“What’s happening with healthcare reform in Washington is truly unbelievable,” says Stacy Pell, human resources manager for Deschutes Brewery in Bend. “I’ve seen other times that have seemed tumultuous, but this is crazy.”

Apart from the political battle over health insurance policy, no employer is immune to the upheaval within the health care industry itself. For instance, when major pharmaceutical companies began to unilaterally jack up the prices of even garden variety medications, every employer plan took a major hit. The result: a massive, nationwide effort by employers large and small to find new ways to reinvent the traditional, failing, employee health benefits package.

That effort is bearing fruit, says Steve Wojcik, vice president of public policy at the National Business Group on Health.

“Many of the innovations in health plans have come from employers,” Wojcik says. “They are moving toward a personalized approach, identifying what employees need to lower their health risks and what motivates them to live a healthy lifestyle. They are also broadening the focus from health to well-being, from physical health to emotional, financial, and social well-being, as well as job satisfaction.”

Here are two articles describing these innovations:

Employers target wellness programs to cut costs and aid recruitment. 

Self-insurance, employer trusts and professional partnerships help employers improve worker health and the bottom line.