In a recent post, I shared the stories of employers from the North Shore area and their challenges in providing affordable health insurance coverage to their employees.
Yesterday I visited employers in Burlington at an event organized by Burlington Area Chamber of Commerce President Jim Murphy, and listened to very similar stories. The employers represented at yesterday's event represented a wide-range of employer types including municipal government, for-profit companies, and non-profit organizations.
They all agreed on one important issue: they too are feeling the pinch of dramatic increases in health care costs. In addition – like other small employers across Massachusetts – some are resorting to raising their employee deductibles and co-payments to curb their health care premiums, or even more alarming, to changing their full-time employees to part-time status.
Some interesting themes emerged from our conversation. For example, they all agreed that in order to lower annual increases in health care costs, it is essential that we change consumer behavior and expectations about our own health care benefits, utilization, and personal health habits.
Certain participants discussed their recent efforts to contain employee health care costs through employee wellness programs that promote physical activity and disease management. Other attendees talked about the need to educate people to utilize their primary care physician more and emergency room less, resulting in integrated and coordinated care. Moreover, others focused on the importance of developing selected networks of providers that encourage choice and reflect their employees' health care utilization patterns.
In the months ahead, the Division will continue to directly engage employers – purchasers – to present the agency's key data findings regarding health care costs. We also intend to assist employers in obtaining information that will help them become more prudent purchasers in the health care marketplace. As we develop the all-payer-claims-database (APCD), consumers and employers in the Commonwealth will be provided with unprecedented and transparent information of the price and quality of the services they buy. We believe this transparency will help employers better understand the drivers of rising costs.
Over the next several months, we encourage employers to continue to engage in these important discussions and use data-driven approaches to find ways of lowering their own companies' health care costs and inform their purchasing decisions. The Division wants to help – let us know how.