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Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

Employers will likely step up their efforts to rein in health care costs next year, a new PwC Health Research Institute report predicts, partially because they've nearly maxed out their ability to offload costs onto employees.

What they're saying: "2020 likely will be, in some ways, a turning point in the long arc of employer-sponsored insurance, a year in which more employers fight back," the report's authors write.

The big picture: Employers' medical costs are expected to rise by 6% next year, thanks to drug costs, chronic diseases and greater access to mental health care.

  • Employers have handled rising health care costs over the last decade primarily by increasing employees' cost-sharing, but that strategy may have run its course.
  • At least one-third of employees in the HRI survey said they didn't have enough money saved to pay their deductible.
  • Employers “are at a very interesting kind of crossroads ... and now it's time to get active and start working on price," said Ben Isgur, HRI's leader.

Between the lines: Nothing keeps business' health care costs in check better than healthy workers — and employers are getting increasingly hands-on in that pursuit.

  • They're getting more active in the delivery of primary care, including worksite health clinics. Some are also negotiating contract prices and setting up their own provider networks.
  • Employers can also nudge employees toward lower-cost providers and more efficient forms of care — for example, trying physical therapy before surgery.

The bottom line: Employers are the health care system's sleeping giant. Prices will go down when employers decide to use their massive political and financial leverage.

Go deeper:

Go deeper

Updated 2 hours ago - World

Biden reviews U.S. arms deals with Saudi Arabia and UAE

Trump struck several large arms deals with Mohammed bin Salman (L) and Saudi Arabia. Photo: Kevin Dietsch-Pool/Getty Images

The Biden administration has put on hold two big arms deals with Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates which were approved in the final weeks of the Trump administration, a State Department official told Axios.

Why it matters: The sales of F-35 jets and attack drones to the UAE and a large supply of munitions to Saudi Arabia will be paused pending a review. That signals a major policy shift from the Trump era, and may herald sharp tensions with both Gulf countries.

Trump supporter found with pipe bombs accused of plot to attack Democrats

Five improvised explosive devices that the FBI says "were fully operational and could cause great bodily harm or injury if handled improperly." Photo: FBI/Justice Department

The FBI believes California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) and the Bay Area headquarters of Twitter and Facebook were targets of a man facing federal explosives charges, according to a criminal complaint.

Driving the news: Prosecutors charged Ian Benjamin Rogers after finding weapons including five pipe bombs, 49 guns and thousands of rounds of ammunition following a Jan. 15 search of his Napa County home and auto repair business. His alleged goal was to ensure former President Trump remained in office.

6 hours ago - Health

Fauci: COVID vaccine rollout needs to prioritize people of color

Anthony Fauci. Photo: Alex Wong via Getty Images

Infectious disease expert Anthony Fauci highlighted the need to address racial disparities in the COVID-19 vaccination process, per an interview with The New England Journal of Medicine on Wednesday.

What he’s saying: "I think that's the one thing we really got to be careful of. We don't want in the beginning ... most of the people who are getting it are otherwise, well, middle-class white people."