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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

Symone Sanders leaving VP's office

Vice President Kamala Harris and her press secretary Symone Sanders. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

Symone Sanders, senior advisor and chief spokesperson to Vice President Kamala Harris, is leaving the VP’s office by the end of this year, three White House officials told Axios on Wednesday.

Why it matters: The VP has faced an onslaught of criticism in her first year centered on her leadership and staff, adding to the suggestion, she’s not the Democratic Party’s preferred nominee for 2024.

Bryan Walsh, author of Future
Updated 2 hours ago - Health

Omicron travel bans are sign of what's to come

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The travel bans and border closures prompted by the Omicron variant likely won't fully prevent its spread, but that won't stop countries from leaning on the measures.

Why it matters: The rapid speed at which countries turned to travel bans with the emergence of Omicron indicates border controls will increasingly become a weapon against infectious disease — whether or not public health experts agree they are effective.

2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

GOP fights itself on shutdown politics

Reporters question Senate Minority Whip John Thune before the Republican Party's weekly lunch on Tuesday. Photo: Kent Nishimura/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

GOP leaders on Capitol Hill are scrambling to reach a deal with a bloc of 15 Senate Republicans threatening a government shutdown to force a fight over the Biden administration's vaccine mandates.

Why it matters: The push to defund the mandates — by holding the short-term government funding bill hostageis largely symbolic, and highly controversial within the Republican Party. A shutdown as early as midnight Friday could trigger everything from national park closures to delays in receiving Social Security checks.