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3 Employer Health Trends for 2023: Affordability Tops the List

As the world enters a possible recession and healthcare costs rise, affordability will be a key concern for employers in 2023, according to the Business Group on Health. Other top health trends for employers next year will be continued support of wellbeing programs and health equity.

“None of these are new issues, but they’re magnified and a bit nuanced in light of current events and where the macroeconomic environment is,” Ellen Kelsay, president and CEO of Business Group on Health, said in an interview. “That’s why we’ve really pulled them forward as things that we’re keeping a sharp eye on as we head into 2023.”

The Business Group on Health is a nonprofit organization that represents large employers on health and benefits policy.

Here are the top three trends the organization is watching for employers in 2023:

  1. Healthcare costs

Employers will likely see higher healthcare costs in 2023, partially due to an increase in demand for care after people put off services during the beginning of the pandemic. A recent Business Group on Health survey of 135 large employers found that 43% have already seen a rise in medical services because of delayed care from Covid-19, and another 39% expect to in the future.

Additionally, cancer is now the top condition driving healthcare costs, surpassing musculoskeletal conditions, another Business Group on Health Survey found. This is because cancers are now being identified at later stages.

“During the pandemic, there were a lot of preventive visits and cancer screenings that didn’t occur,” Kelsay said. “So there’s a backlog of services that now people are going to get treated for and we might see some more late stage cancers being diagnosed, which are going to be more expensive and challenging to treat.”

In response, many employers are absorbing the increases in healthcare costs, rather than putting the burden on employees, Kelsay said. They’re also moving away from fee-for-service payment models to more value-based arrangements, and looking at their vendors to see if they have any duplication of services. 

  1. More focus on health and wellbeing programs

Despite this increase in healthcare costs, the Business Group on Health doesn’t anticipate health and wellbeing programs going away for employees, Kelsay said. In fact, 65% view health and wellbeing as an integral role in their workforce strategy, up from 27% five years ago, the nonprofit found.

“We’ve had some folks say, ‘Well, gosh, maybe in a time of uncertain economic situations, employers might start to retract some of those efforts,’” Kelsay said. “We don’t see that happening at all. In fact, for a number of years when we’ve surveyed our employer members, they take a long-term view of their health and wellbeing offerings and really view them as … part of a strategic component of their overall workforce strategy.”

To continue offering these wellbeing programs, employers will be searching for partnerships that can provide high quality solutions and improve patient outcomes, Kelsay said. Many employers are focusing on programs for mental health, financial wellbeing and caregiver support, she added.

  1. Efforts to battle health inequities

There are several key areas employers are looking to reduce health inequities within their organization, though it depends on the company. These areas include housing, food, maternal health, transgender care and care for neurodiverse populations, Kelsay said. Some employers are also looking to help workers living in rural communities.

“Different employers and different workforces might have different areas of inequity that they might be addressing,” Kelsay said. “But they’re very keen to make sure that all of their employees of any type of population or however they might identify have equal access to health and wellbeing services to treat their particular needs.”

Getty images, utah778

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