MHuangEmployers are taking the reins on rising healthcare costs. At an increasing pace, we saw U.S. employers implement different methods of providing quality care for their employees, without breaking the bank. More than two-thirds of U.S. employers currently offer wellness programs and 33 percent of large U.S. employers now offer worksite healthcare to their employees. As a result, employers are moving the needle on expensive healthcare claims by supporting their employees in their health improvement – and it makes good business sense. The Washington Post reports that this approach “can help companies reduce healthcare costs, cut absentee rates, and perhaps attract top talent.”

We want to share with you the top three healthcare trends we’re seeing across our nationwide network of customers and worksite health centers.

1. Getting ahead of high cost claims

We’ve seen employers shift to a more proactive approach to maintain and reduce their workforce healthcare spend. A recent Mercer survey revealed that “managing high cost claimants is the top benefits strategy U.S. employers will be focusing on for the next five years.” What’s at the top of the high cost claims list? Cancer and musculoskeletal disorders. Costs related to musculoskeletal disorders skyrocketed by 131 percent from 1996 to 2014, and total spending on cancer treatment is expected to increase 27 to 39 percent in the current decade. At Marathon Health, we find on average 24 percent of our customers’ medical claim costs are attributed to those two conditions, making them the two largest cost drivers. 

Read more: Getting in front of high cost claims

As high cost claims continue to rise and grow greater than the rate of inflation­, there are actionable steps organizations can take to reduce their risk. From claims analysis to controlling prescription drug costs, employers are getting ahead of the curve before expensive health conditions escalate.

2. Using data to improve health benefits

Before preparing the annual budget, businesses review monthly and annual financial reports to understand trends, risks, and opportunities. Employers are applying this approach to employee healthcare to gain valuable insight, guide workforce healthcare decisions, and improve employee benefits. When you know which health risks are impacting your workforce, you can build plans to reduce them. As a physician, understanding more about the health risks in the population helps me tailor health center services, programming, and outreach to manage specific illness and chronic conditions.

Read more: How to use data to improve employee healthcare benefits

3. Supporting employee mental health

Mental and behavioral health care will become central to many employers’ benefits strategies in the New Year, and with good reason—each year, more than 70 million working days are lost due to mental health, costing employers more than $276 billion. According to a recent Willis Towers Watson’s survey, “39 percent of employers offer initiatives to support chronic behavioral health conditions, and 26 percent are considering these initiatives for 2020.”

As mental health conditions like anxiety, depression, and chronic stress become more and more prevalent, increasing access to mental health services will only be the starting point.

Read more: All health begins in the brain

It has become increasingly clear that employers are the gatekeepers to transforming the health care system—making this far more than a passing trend. These moves show that employers will remain committed to improving health and lowering the cost of care for their employees.

 Download: Connecting Health and Business Performance