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More employers consider new health plan reimbursement approaches: Survey

More employers consider new health plan reimbursement approaches: Survey

As part of their strategy to hold down their health care plan costs, more employers are considering new approaches to reimburse plan participants for claims expenses and encourage them to use providers with the best medical outcomes, according to a survey released Thursday.

The Aon Hewitt survey of about 800 large and midsize employers found that 62% are considering redesigning their plans so participant reimbursement would be limited to a fixed amount for services where there are now wide cost variations.

It is an approach driven by the fact that provider charges may vary widely for some procedures and services with no meaningful differences in outcomes, said Jim Winkler, chief innovation officer for health in Aon Hewitt's Norwalk, Conn., office.

That approach already is widespread in coverage of prescription drugs, where many employers require plan participants to pay the full difference in the cost between brand name products and their generic substitutes.

In addition, 59% of respondents said they intend to direct participants, through plan design or lower costs, to hospitals or physicians with demonstrated high quality for specific procedures or conditions.

“Employers want to drive employees to providers with the best outcomes,” Mr. Winkler said.

The survey also found that 38% of employers plan to join cooperative purchasing programs with other employers or group to try to get better pricing for health care services.