With plans shifting daily to repeal and replace or repair the Affordable Care Act (ACA), business leaders are trying to understand how potential changes will affect their companies and employees.
While it’s important to understand what revisions may take place, employers should also focus on what is within their control and the steps they can take now during this transformational time in health care.
1. Review prescription drug costs.
Costs for pharmaceuticals have risen during the past few years, and that trend is anticipated to continue through the remainder of the decade.
Several factors are driving the increase in costs: manufacturers raising prices and the changing composition of drugs, the growth in specialty medications, the consolidation of pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs), and increased use driven by poor overall health.
Employers looking for government intervention or relief in this area may not see action this year. Instead, employers can take the following steps:
Review current benefit design and pharmacy data.
Review current PBM contract to ensure that the most aggressive unit cost and appropriate-use strategies are in place.
Ask current PBMs what measures are in place to review providers that may have opioid prescribing issues.
Use evidence-based prior authorization and ensure price protection provisions are included for specialty pharmacy.
2. Focus on financial wellness.
Employees expect their employers to assist them in becoming financially secure. Many individuals live paycheck to paycheck, with little to no savings.
On top of that, employees can be less productive as they deal with financial issues while on the clock. Offering benefits and financial education beyond the standard retirement plan is a growing trend, particularly among competitive employers.
Employers should consider educating their workforce to create budgets and provide coaching for money management around mortgages, credit cards, and student loans.
At the same time, it is important to be sensitive to potential fiduciary liability and compliance issues that could arise if employee financial wellness activities stretch beyond providing general educational and self-service tools.
3. Engage millennials.
Seventy five percent of employers are concerned about retention rates with millennials, yet only 28 percent of companies plan to make benefit-offering changes this year to accommodate them, according to a recent survey by Wells Fargo Insurance, seen in the webinar “Generation Y: Optimizing benefits for the millennial workforce.”
As millennials are expected to make up half of the workforce by 2020, now is the time to engage them in their health, wealth and profession. More prone to experience anxiety and financial stress than any other generation, according to the American Psychological Association in “Stress by Generation: Younger Americans struggle to achieve health lifestyles, 2012,” potential solutions for millennials include tuition-forgiveness incentives and financial planning programs, such as tailored apps.
Mindfulness, behavioral health and employee assistance plans can also provide support in these areas. Mentoring programs may also prove valuable, as sharing information across generations helps employees learn strengths from one another.
Despite the uncertainty surrounding ACA legislation, employers have the opportunity to positively engage their workforce and evolve benefit programs to meet their employee needs.
Employers should consult with an employee benefits professional to help navigate the changing landscape of health care.
This material is for informational purposes and is not intended to be exhaustive nor should any discussions or opinions be construed as legal advice. Contact your broker for insurance advice, tax professional for tax advice, or legal counsel for legal advice regarding your particular situation.
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