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Mercer

Navigating healthcare is a challenge. The market has responded by bringing together an array of tools to guide consumers. This is a fictionalized account of one patient’s journey.

 

April 10

So I wiped out on the bike today in the strangest possible way. I was training for this year’s NYC Five Boro Bike Tour when I got distracted by a man on a unicycle juggling bagels and lost control. I can’t believe it! Only in New York. My bike is okay but I’m out of commission. I hopped over to the sidewalk and called an Uber back home. My right knee looks pointed inwards and the Internet says that could mean a torn ACL. I’m going to ice my knee, take some Advil, and hope I’m wrong.

-Karen

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The health care market is getting more and more complicated. More than $4 billion has been invested in digital health in each of the past two years and investment activity remains strong in 2016. Just keeping up with all the latest developments is challenging, never mind the work required to evaluate solutions, decide what to implement, and then communicate and manage them. Conversely, we continue to see consolidation in the market -- health plans, PBMs, and health systems are consolidating and developing ACOs. Fewer choices and more choices all at the same time.

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Employee Benefit Adviser has recognized Mercer’s Sharon Cunninghis, the global leader of our private exchange Mercer Marketplace, as one of 17 private exchange leaders who are shaping the future of health care. “These executives from all parts of the industry are leaders in the space, forecasting trends and serving as ushers for what some are calling a new era of health care,” says the article. Indeed, Mercer’s National Survey of Employer-Sponsored Health Plans 2015 found that 6% of large employers either already use a private exchange for active employees or will by next year’s open enrollment – a 50% increase year-over-year – and that an additional 27% are considering switching to an exchange within five years.

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The looming excise tax is getting a lot of attention from employers — as it should. Based on their current plan costs, about one-third of employers are likely to become subject to the excise tax in 2018 when it first goes into effect, with many to follow in subsequent years. Without assertive action, it’s not a question of “if” plans will become subject to the excise tax, but “when.”

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It’s going to be a busy open enrollment season for Mercer Marketplace. In 2014, its first year of operations, Mercer’s private benefits exchange provided access for 52 companies, with 220,000 eligible employees, retirees, and dependents. For 2015, those numbers have grown by about a factor of five: 247 companies have chosen Mercer Marketplace to provide access to more than 1,000,000 lives. Additional enrollments for 2015 will continue throughout 2014.

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MetLife's annual survey finds only a third of employers are satisfied with the level of enrollment in voluntary benefits. Their press release suggests some best practices focusing on communication and personalization.

 

A few more best practices to consider: First, include voluntary benefits in open enrollment for medical and the other group benefit plans. Often, employers get lured into offering voluntary products at a different time of the year hoping to draw more attention to the products. Mercer survey data suggest the top two reasons employers offer voluntary benefits are to help employees take advantage of group purchasing power for coverages like home and auto insurance but also to fill gaps in employer-sponsored benefits with coverages like hospital indemnity. The ability to fill gaps is becoming more important to employees as deductibles continue to increase each year, and offering the plans side by side allows employees to coordinate their benefit choices.

 

Another best practice to consider is to give employees a decision-support tool during open enrollment that provides a holistic approach to evaluating individual needs and financial resources. In our initial offering of Mercer Marketplace, 35% of employees electing either a $1,500 or $2,500 deductible medical plan elected at least one supplemental health plan. This supports the idea that the availability of supplemental health benefits helps employees buy lower-cost medical plans.

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In this article, having a choice of medical plans is identified as a disruptor. Three things to consider: First, most people with coverage from their employer only have one or two medical plans available to them. An exchange, whether private or public, does offer up more choice. Secondly, as we know from our first-year experience with the Mercer Marketplace private exchange, when you give people helpful decision support along with choice, the majority will "buy down" to a less expensive plan because they discover that they have been over-insured. Third, it is well documented that millions of dollars are spent annually in the U.S. on care that is inappropriate or unnecessary. Looking up prices, actively negotiating with providers, and using home remedies or over-the-counter medicines -- all of which tends to happen when health care consumers have more skin in the game -- is a good thing. The more active we all are as consumers, the better.

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Interesting article in BI. Mercer Marketplace is available to companies with 100 or more employees. We have partnerships with more than 25 medical carriers, including many BCBS plans. Mercer's platform provides access to the full suite of benefits including medical, dental, vision, life, disability, and voluntary benefits. The decision deadline for January 1, 2015 effective date is in July. 

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