Dec 12, 2019 - Health

Employers skeptical of health insurance merger savings

$100 bills getting shredded as they go into a amber drug bottle.

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Mergers between health insurers and pharmacy benefit managers have been billed as a way to save employers money. But half of employers don't expect that to happen, according to a new JPMorgan survey.

Driving the news: In JPMorgan's survey of top human-resources executives from 50 companies, exactly 50% said they don't think integrating medical and drug benefits under one roof will "drive overall health care savings."

What they're saying: Here are some of the anonymous quotes JPMorgan gathered from respondents on the skeptical side:

  • "There's too much money to be made. They're not offering integrated services to give up revenue."
  • "I am not sure why going back to how it was will magically result in overall savings."
  • "More ways to hide money."

The other side: Even among the other 50% — the executives who were more optimistic about savings — that optimism was tempered.

  • "Conceptually, this should mean greater influence over prescribing patterns. To date, in my opinion, it hasn't," one executive said.

Between the lines: As we wrote last year, this spate of consolidation among insurers and PBMs would not have happened unless those companies were pretty sure they could hang on to a lot of the savings they produced.

  • Employers can always switch insurance carriers if they think they are getting overcharged. But they rarely do so, because they don't want the employee backlash that's associated with overhauling health benefits.

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