Employers Eye ACOs and Telemedicine in 2018

By Rita Pyrillis

Oct. 26, 2017

Employers are continuing to look for innovative ways to manage health care costs and improve quality, and while costs continue to rise, they remain far below than those in the Affordable Care Act marketplaces, according to a recent survey by the National Business Group on Health.

“Looking ahead to 2018 employers are holding the line on increases to 5 percent, although we’d still like to see that lower,” said Steve Wojcik, vice president, public policy at the business coalition. “Employers are changing their tactics and focusing on changing the delivery system by looking at accountable care organizations, centers of excellence and worksite health centers, and other alternative models. Employers aren’t just sitting back, they’re taking an active role.”

Cost increases have hovered around 5 percent over the past five years, according to the NBGH’s 2018 “Large Employers’ Health Care Strategy and Plan Design Survey.” While that is far lower than the skyrocketing premiums in the Affordable Care Act marketplaces, it is not sustainable in the long term, Wojcik said.

Interest in telehealth continues to soar, with 96 percent of employers making these services available compared to just 7 percent in 2012.

This stability was also reflected in the Kaiser Family Foundation’s 2017 “Employer Health Benefits Survey,” which reported a 3 percent increase this year compared to an average increase of 20 percent in the ACA exchanges.

However, employee contributions to family premiums have risen sharply since 2012 from 14 percent to 32 percent this year, according to the Kaiser report, with workers at small firms digging deeper into their pockets than those at large companies. Employees at small firms are paying about $1,550 more a year for family coverage.

According to the NBGH survey, in 2018 it will cost an average of $14,156 a year to provide an employee with health insurance, up from $13,482 in 2017.

While employers continue to tweak plan design to help manage costs, they are increasingly focused on changing the way health care is delivered and paid for.

About 21 percent are actively promoting or contracting directly with ACOs in 2018 — a number that’s expected to double by 2020, according to the report.

Rita Pyrillis is a writer in the Chicago area. Comment below or email

Rita Pyrillis is a writer based in the Chicago area.

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