September 2017

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BHCG Employers Share Benefits Details and UnitedHealth Premium® Designation Program Strategies

On June 21 BHCG member employers gathered for one of the more popular and well-attended meetings on our Benefits Forum calendar – the annual Employer Benefits Roundtable Discussion.

Employer representatives shared their current benefits structure, claims experience, cost trend and changes anticipated for 2018 and beyond. A predominant topic of the discussion was the UnitedHealth Premium designation program and employers' plans for engaging employees and dependents to utilize Premium providers to maximize cost saving opportunities.

Maintaining status quo but planning changes for 2018

Most employers had minimal benefits changes in 2017 with some changes to deductibles and out-of-pocket maximums and premiums. One employer rolled out an HSA in 2017 resulting in 60 percent eligible employee participation. Some employers reported they are capitalizing on UnitedHealthcare's broad national network to provide coverage in other regions, reducing the number of plan administrators for different employee populations.

The 2018 plan year looks like a year of change for a few employers. One large employer is going to a full replacement HSA plan in 2018, eliminating its PPO and HMO plans as the culmination of a campaign to encourage HSA plan enrollment and promote employee HSA contributions.

Another employer is expecting a fair amount of plan design changes for 2018 after having kept its plan the same for four or five years. It is looking to move its plan design components closer to the marketplace by increasing employee cost sharing and taking a closer look at participating in a near-site clinic.

Other employers reported they were still in the strategy and planning stages for 2018 but were looking at adding programs such as the Best Doctors Oncology Insight program, a high cost generic Rx formulary and Premium provider utilization incentives.

Positive cost trends

Several employers reported positive cost trends: "Claims experience has been phenomenal and trending well."; "Premiums have gone down each of the last four or five years."; "Experience was good – under budget."; "We had a negative renewal."; and "Lots of good news, no really high cost claims – we are going into our fourth year of no increases in employee contributions."

The case for the Premium designation program

All employers reporting at the Roundtable had plans to include strategies to increase the utilization of Premium providers in UnitedHealthcare's Premium designation program. These strategies included increased employee/dependent communication and education (including the new Engagement Solutions communications campaign) and changing benefit plan design to incentivize the use of Premium providers.

Currently, a couple of employers already have benefit incentives in place for Premium provider utilization, with the rest strongly considering offering incentives for 2018 or 2019. This is not surprising since there is compelling evidence in the 2016 BHCG data that suggests higher utilization of Premium providers produces significant positive results. Please come to our Annual Meeting to learn more details about these encouraging results.

All in all, as the employers reporting at the Roundtable indicated, the future outlook for BHCG member employers' benefits plans is optimistic. With the innovative tools, resources and programs offered through membership, BHCG employers are at the forefront of efforts to improve the value of health care, both quality and cost – and it's paying off.


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The Business Health Care Group leverages member employer purchasing power and knowledge to lead change. We create value through innovative shared strategies to improve health care quality and cost efficiency for employers, employees and the community. BHCG membership exceeds 200,000 covered lives in the 22-county region of eastern Wisconsin.