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January 15, 2019

How Do Your Benefits Stack Up?

Artemis Health

Galileo suggested that we “Measure what is measurable, and make measurable what is not so.” Easier said than done. Because every business and population face unique challenges, unique situations, and unique needs, it’s a big ask to “make measurable what is not so.”

In the world of benefits data analytics, that’s the name of the game. The trick is to not only measure every aspect of your benefit plan, population health, and program performance, but to find out what to do about it. That’s where benchmark surveys and sharing insights can be very helpful. You can find great ideas and make changes based on what others like you are doing with their benefits.

We’d like to highlight some key findings and insights from Arthur J. Gallager & Co.’s 2018 Benefits Strategy & Benchmarking Survey. They surveyed over 4,000 organizations, asking more than 300 questions, to get a complete picture of how organizations are approaching their benefits.

First, the competition for great employees. 60% of respondents said that attracting and retaining a competitive workforce is their first priority. We’re guessing this doesn’t come as a surprise to anyone who has tried to hire for a skilled position in the last two years. It’s a very tight job market with low unemployment, which means candidates are in the driver’s seat during a job hunt.

We’ve written about how benefits programs can help attract and retain talent in the past. Employers who make behavioral health, fertility coverage, flexible schedules, and financial wellness priorities for their benefits packages will find themselves more competitive than those who offer basic health and dental plans.

The affordability of their health benefits is also a top concern for employers. From the survey: 

“While nearly three-quarters of employers (74%) consider cost management of their health benefits a top priority, just 44% agree they have an effective strategy to support that objective.”

Both medical and prescription coverage are driving the cost of care. It’s no wonder that many organizations are forced to push some costs to employees through higher premiums, HDHPs, and fewer programs. One way to avoid this is to tailor plans directly to employee needs through choice and customization. While some may need a plan with a lower deductible and more complete coverage, others may elect slimmed down HDHPs with HSAs to maximize their savings. It’s a smart way to ensure you’re meeting the needs of a diverse, multi-generational population.

Another fascinating trend from the survey is that only 27% of large employers are “carving out” pharmacy benefits, the practice of contracting with a separate Pharmacy Benefits Management vendor for prescription coverage. This one came as a surprise to us, since it’s a reliable way to track, measure, and control the cost of prescription benefits.

Dr. Rance Hutchings, our Chief Clinical Officer at Artemis, has shared tips for finding prescription benefit savings in the past. Many of them involve working with transparent PBMs who share data, pass through rebates, and offer customization of your formulary. These tips only work if you’ve carved out pharmacy benefits and have access to data.

In fact, data is the common theme that enables benefits teams to address their challenges and find solutions. You’d need to look at enrollment and engagement data to see if employees were taking advantage of things like wellness programs or fertility coverage. You’d have to dive into enrollment data and look across feeds to see demographic info to better understand which groups of employees are electing which plans and features. You’d need access to great pharmacy claims data to find inefficiencies and make adjustments to your formulary.

Data is the key to seeing how your benefits stack up against other organizations like yours. Even more importantly, data is the key to making benefits changes that positively impact your population and your bottom line.

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