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How employers are tackling health costs

illustration of $100 bill squeezing into a pill bottle
Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

Employers have more power over our health care system than anyone else, and they're getting more creative with how to wield it to lower costs, according to a new survey of large employers.

Why it matters: U.S. health care spending is going to become increasingly unsustainable until employers — which cover a plurality of Americans — decide they've had enough.

  • The survey, conducted by the National Business Group on Health, is another sign that they're getting closer to that point.
  • A PwC report recently predicted that 2020 will be "a year in which more employers fight back."

Details: The survey reflects 147 large employers covering 15 million people.

  • It found that employers are increasingly focused on primary care, as prevention is a lot more cost-effective than treatment.
  • 34% of the employers said primary care will be available on or near the worksite next year, and 24% said they'll steer patients to physician-based alternative care organizations or high performance networks.

Additionally, employers are grappling with how to handle the services that do drive their high costs.

  • More than a quarter are expanding their use of centers of excellence in areas like orthopedics and fertility, and many said they're considering alternate ways of paying for new million-dollar specialty drugs.

Yes, but: Even with these strategies, costs are still expected to rise by 5%.

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