Study Reveals Large Employers' Concerns About Post-Pandemic Health Care Landscape

Author: Robert S. Teachout, XpertHR Legal Editor

September 16, 2022

Lowering health care costs and prescription drug expenses and making more affordable coverage possible are among employers' top future health care reform priorities, according to a study released by the Business Group on Health. The 2023 Large Employers' Health Care Strategy and Plan Design Survey gathered and aggregated data on key health plan designs and health care costs affecting coverage in the coming year.

"Employers shared that they are deeply concerned about unsustainable health care costs, the devastating effects of the pandemic on employee health, and the need to work creatively with their partners toward a more positive and sustainable health care experience, among other issues," said Ellen Kelsay, president and CEO of Business Group on Health.

The findings reflect the dramatic increase in importance large employers place on employee health and well-being strategy, with 65% of respondents reporting it is an integral part of their workforce strategy in 2022, up from 42% in 2021. By comparison, 32% said health and well-being strategy is only a consideration of their workforce strategy.

Health equity also is a major issue, according to the survey report, with three out of four employers reporting they are concerned about inequities in their company's health and well-being initiatives. Looking towards 2024 and 2025, employers reported plans to address social determinants that impact health, particularly racism, childcare, transportation and food access/insecurity to. By 2023, health care and finances/income will be addressed by 80% and 75% of employers, respectively.

In response to the Supreme Court's Dobbs decision overturning Roe v. Wade, 44% of surveyed employers said they have made changes to improve access to abortions or are planning to do so, with the most cited change being the provision of financial assistance for travel and accommodations to receive services.

Other notable findings show the impact of COVID-19 on health and well-being, and changes in the top drivers for health care costs.

For instance, In the wake of the pandemic, employers are seeing or expect to see increases in:

  • Long-term mental health issues (e.g., depression, anxiety and substance use disorder) - 88%
  • Medical services due to delayed care - 82%
  • Chronic condition management needs - 70%
  • Late-stage cancers due to delayed screenings - 57%

For the first time since the survey started, cancer overtook musculoskeletal conditions as the top cost driver. The top three conditions driving costs in 2022 were:

  • Cancer - 83%
  • Musculoskeletal - 76%
  • Cardiovascular - 30%

The increase in observed and expected cases of cancer is likely due to pandemic-related delays in care and screenings.

Employers can use data like this to benchmark their benefit offerings and focus where their efforts can provide the greatest impact on employee health and well-being. "Survey findings function as a 'collective snapshot' that can guide employers as they determine how to maximize employee benefits," Kelsay said.

Survey data was provided by 135 large employers across varied industry sectors, who cover more than 18 million people in the United States. Business Group on Health is a non-profit organization representing large employers' perspectives on health policy issues and using health, benefits and wellbeing solutions in optimizing workforce strategy.