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How healthcare costs are robbing American workers and what you can do about it.

navigation and advocacy can help employers reduce healthcare costs
author apree health

Findings from a recent study published in JAMA should send shivers up the spine of every employer and employee in the country. The study examined the growth in healthcare premiums relative to wages over a 32 year period (1988-2019) to understand what impact healthcare cost inflation was having on the incomes of the American worker. The results were alarming:

  • In 1988, American workers spent an average of 7.9% of their total compensation on healthcare premiums. In 2019, that number had grown to 17.7%.
  • Over this 32 year period, the cumulative impact of these premium increases was $125,340 per family. The average family lost nearly 5% of their total compensation due to healthcare premium increases during this period.
  • The statistics for workers of color and those in lower wage jobs were even more strained. For example, workers paid in the bottom 20% saw the percentage of their income spent on health insurance premiums go from 12.9% to 28.5%.

And none of this data includes out-of-pocket expenses on co-pays, deductibles, and co-insurance which are growing as well thanks to growth in high-deductible health plans! As a well known quote from the economic world, known as “Stein’s Law” states, “if something can’t go on forever, it will stop”. So the question becomes, what options do employers have to stop this runaway freight train that’s increasingly robbing money from the pockets of hard working Americans everywhere?

From our perspective, it comes down to two core elements:

  1. Engagement – For too long, employers have simply turned their employees loose in broad provider networks with complicated benefits and confusing terminology and hoped for the best. Given the complexities of healthcare, many individuals are highly open to support and guidance when it comes to their health and healthcare. Imagine a world where an employer can offer their employee specific support and guidance for their unique situation; support that adjusts along with the employee’s circumstances.

At apree, we call this Navigation and Advocacy, and it’s an essential part of what we do. For the employers we work with, each employee is analyzed from numerous data sources and claims records to outline a targeted health journey, relevant interventions, and ongoing support. Our care guides work with each member on health actions, answer questions and clarify the confusing aspects of healthcare. Employees are so grateful for this level of human interaction and support that we enjoy a +86 Net Promoter Score. We’re also able to navigate them to high-quality, lower cost providers, reducing unnecessary healthcare costs for both employee and employer.

  1. Strong, Foundational Primary Care – Primary care accounts for only about 5% of total health costs, yet its impact on total health care is much larger. Above all, it’s important to note that not all primary care is the same. Too often, fee-for-service primary care practices are focused on delivering volumes of services, which doesn’t always align with best practices for proactive and longitudinal care that many individuals need. Those needs are best served by advanced primary care practices that identify health issues before they become larger and more expensive and combine additional services, like behavioral health, chronic condition support, health coaching and more. At apree, we’ve been pioneers of advanced primary care, delivering care for employer and health plan clients in both on-site and near site practice environments. Our clients average 2-4x ROI after implementation of our model. Advanced primary care is the antidote for the runaway cost trends found in the JAMA study.

As an employer, we hope this information is as alarming to you as it was to us. Healthcare is not only taking increased dollars out of your budget, it’s taking significant dollars out of the pockets of your employees. Imagine the additional benefits or options you’d have if these dollars weren’t going towards healthcare. At apree Health, we’re passionate about keeping dollars in the pockets of your workers. Our model helps you invest benefit dollars the right way, giving your employees support and clarity, while lowering your total benefit costs. Let’s put these dollars back in the hands of our employees rather than healthcare companies. Ready to get started? Let’s get in touch.

Considering your options for employee engagement and not sure what’s best? Check out our buyer’s guide for the top four questions to ask of any solution.

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