Healthcare is expensive — and the costs just continue to rise worldwide. In the U.S., we expect that increases for
employer-sponsored health plans to be more than 8 percent in 2024. While ordinary macroeconomic
inflationary pressures account for some of the increase, factors specific to healthcare are driving the trend. For
example, the class of drugs known as GLP-1 receptor agonists, traditionally used for diabetes but now also used as
weight loss aids, are projected to add as much as one percent to increasing costs alone, according to our estimates.
In the past, organizations have typically passed some of this cost on to their employees through plan design and
contribution changes, but this is not sustainable. According to our research, nearly a third of employees already
face difficulty accessing care due to cost. Almost half of all employees can’t afford to pay a $1,000 medical bill
within 30 days — a number that rises to more than 60 percent for Hispanic employees and nearly 70 percent for black
employees. As a result, employers and employees alike are searching for ways to keep costs down without foregoing
necessary care. By focusing on a few core areas, employers can make an impact on affordability for their employees.
For some, primary care is the entry point to the healthcare system. Leveraging it can help improve affordability.
However, many individuals lack convenient access to primary care and as a result, their entry point to the system is
the far less affordable option of emergency care. Aon’s research shows that 25 percent of employees live in areas
with a significant shortage of primary care physicians (PCPs).
Primary care is also critical to preventative care, which can reduce the need for more extensive and costly care
later. Even further, much of the necessary management for chronic conditions happens through primary care. So,
access to primary care is in itself a driver of more affordable care and improved health outcomes.
Organizations that want to help their employees afford primary care can offer expanded access in a few ways:
- Offer virtual primary care, which has become much more common in recent years. The next iteration is
virtual-first plans, which are separate plans that can reduce costs by coordinating all care through a virtual
- Enhance coverage with low employee coinsurance or copays for retail clinics and primary care office visits.
- Steer employees to high-quality, low-cost providers through personalized resources.
- Improve care coordination to help ensure services aren’t being unnecessarily duplicated, and that the
appropriate level of care is received.
- Assure health plan networks include providers who offer hybrid care (sometimes called “click and mortar”), which
mixes virtual and in-person services.
Providing these expanded care options can deliver better outcomes and member experiences for employees.