Oct 21, 2019

Employers aren't changing their health benefits

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Companies rarely switch the health plans they offer to their workers, and seem to be especially cautious in the 2020 election year.

The big picture: Medical and drug costs are crushing employers and workers alike. But altering benefits — which could require employees to change their doctors — could provoke even more anger.

By the numbers: Roughly half of employers offering health benefits did not shop around for new plans or insurance companies for 2019, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation's latest employer benefit survey.

  • Of the half that did shop, just 18% changed to a new insurance carrier.
  • That means fewer than 10% of all employers switched carriers.
  • Large corporations, like GM, are much less likely to tinker with coverage than smaller firms.

"Disruption is the enemy," Mike Turpin, an employer health care consultant at the brokerage USI Insurance Services, said on a call with Wall Street investors last week.

  • Turpin said he has seen even less switching for 2020 because employers don't want to make waves over health care in an election year — "which buys another year" for the large, incumbent health insurance companies.

Between the lines: More companies have moved workers into less comprehensive plans since the Affordable Care Act was passed, but those changes often have been met with either immediate condemnation (like Harvard in 2015) or delayed outrage as workers shoulder more costs.

  • "It is telling that brokers perform an analysis for employers that's called 'disruption analysis' — the goal of which is not to be disruptive, but to minimize disruption," said Katherine Hempstead, a health policy adviser at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

Yes, but: Millions of people still switch health plans every year when they buy it on their own, change jobs, get laid off or retire.

Go deeper: If there's a turning point on health costs, it'll come from employers

Go deeper

Employers are relying less on high-deductible health insurance plans

Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

Some employers are returning to offering traditional health insurance plans again, as opposed to relying solely on those with high deductibles, Kaiser Health News reports with NPR.

Driving the news: The percentage of companies offering high-deductible plans as the only coverage option is declining for the third year in a row in 2020, per a survey of large employers by the National Business Group on Health.

Go deeperArrowOct 30, 2019

How middle class workers will pay for Medicare for All

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Sen. Elizabeth Warren's newly released plan to pay for Medicare for All leaves the middle class financially better off than they are today, but it's not true to say that they won't pay for it at all, experts say.

Between the lines: Employers will directly pay for Medicare for All, and economists predict that this will get passed onto workers through reduced wages — just as employers' costs for private health insurance are passed on today.

Go deeperArrowNov 1, 2019

Corporate America opens up on silencing mental health stigma

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Corporate America is attempting to abolish the "don't ask, don't tell" attitude on mental health between employers and their staff, Bloomberg Businessweek reports.

Why it matters: 63% of employees diagnosed with a mental illness say they have not disclosed it to their employer, according to a Harris Poll partnership with the American Heart Association CEO Roundtable.

Go deeperArrowNov 14, 2019