Page 28

SPECIAL REPORT

Health & Benefits Employers Fighting the Rising Cost of Healthcare Turn to Holistic Benefit Planning as a Solution

By Andrea Wells

T

he nation’s largest employers don’t anticipate finding cost-relief any time soon when it comes to health and benefits coverage. But they have been listening more and waking up to ideas from their brokers that could help them turn the cost curve in the long run. Regardless of how the U.S. Supreme Court rules on the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, many of the reform strategies launched by employers and the insurance industry will move forward, according to Rebecca Knoll Lawrence, J.D., assistant vice president, National Legal and Research Group for Willis North America, Human Capital Practice. (The decision had not been handed down as of IJ Magazine’s deadline.) Group plan premium increases are nothing new — health costs have been going up for decades. Also, the cost of compliance with federal healthcare reform is just one factor driving up costs for employers. But employers today seem to have a new appreciation that the rising costs need to be addressed and that there are ways to do this. Reality is creating a new and more attentive employer audience when it comes to considering health and benefit options, Lawrence says. “For the first time in the last year or two, we’ve had an awakened audience that says, ‘Oh, I see where thinking about benefits as a whole can be beneficial,” she says. N10 | INSURANCE JOURNAL-NATIONAL REGION July 2, 2012

It’s not just about the insurance premium or an employer’s self insured plan, she says. Employers must examine their benefits strategy as a whole and think about how other methods of cost control can help the bottom line. In today’s healthcare environment, employers need to look at wellness programs, bonus structures, vacation plans, and employee assistance plans as ways to counterbalance rising healthcare costs, Lawrence says. Willis has long advocated that employers explore health and benefits features that impact overall cost, but interest in these cost control options has accelerated as employers have been coming to terms with the compliance mandates under the federal healthcare reform act. “We (Willis) have always been pushing other methods of cost control and thinking about benefits as whole, but what I think we have experienced is a lot more interest and engagement when we talk about these issues,” she says. “Brokers need to be thinking about all

of those aspects and not just about the bottom line healthcare costs.” There are a lot of other ways to head-off rising premiums, she says. “Enhance the operation of the benefit plan, but also move money from one area to another to stabilize the whole offering of benefits, and non-health perks that a company can provide,” she says. Push really hard on the strategic planning, and work more on a nitty-gritty level with employers that now see how such planning can impact their company, she says. Expertise Experience and resources in the health and benefits sector will play a big role moving forward regardless of the Supreme Court ruling, Lawrence says. “If an employer wants to look at healthcare reform after the Supreme Court decision and figure out what impact it’s going to have on them, how they can plan, and how they can move forward, then they need to bring in expertise from a number of areas,” she says. Employers, in particular large employwww.insurancejournal.com

Agency Management Systems / Insurance Exchanges; Commercial Auto; Digital Product Guide  
Agency Management Systems / Insurance Exchanges; Commercial Auto; Digital Product Guide  

Agency Management Systems / Insurance Exchanges; Commercial Auto; Digital Product Guide