What Are We Doing About Ridiculous Healthcare Costs?

By: | August 21, 2019 • 2 min read
Kathryn Mayer is HRE’s benefits editor and chair of the Health & Benefits Leadership Conference. She has covered benefits for the better part of a decade, and her stories have won multiple awards, including a Jesse H. Neal Award and honors from the American Society of Business Publication Editors and the National Federation of Press Women. She holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Denver. She can be reached at kmayer@lrp.com.

Count me in as one of the many people frustrated by healthcare costs.

As an editor and reporter who has been covering the unsustainable rising cost of coverage—and as an employee who personally has to deal with it—the issue has been depressing, to say the least.

Maybe it’s because I was in the hospital late last year for a medical emergency for several days and I’m still getting bills I’m unsure about—making me one of the many dealing with unforeseen or surprise medical bills. Maybe it’s because healthcare costs are expected to top a whopping $15,000 per employee (!!) next year, according to the National Business Group on Health. Maybe it’s ludicrous prescription drugs costs. Or because research from the Integrated Benefits Institute recently found that one-third of workers go without needed care because they can’t afford it.


It’s not just depressing; it’s unsustainable.

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“It’s alarming because it’s [growing] faster than wages, it’s higher than inflation, and it’s increasing at an unsustainable rate over time,” says Ellen Kelsey, NBGH chief strategy officer.

While rising healthcare costs are nothing new—rates are rising 4% or 5% year-over-year, on average—are we finally hitting a point where we’re ready to do something, with employers leading the charge? Signs point to yes. More employers are stepping up to address the problem, realizing that employees who are dealing with stress over the high cost of care are likely to be less productive at work. From virtual care and tech solutions to centers of excellence and direct contracting, the opportunities are endless for employers trying to cut costs for their organizations and for their employees. It’s a smart and needed move. Employers are in the power position to lead the charge and to come up with strategies that not only help lower healthcare costs, but also reinvigorate their workforce.

“Employers are making investments not just for the sake of health and managing healthcare costs, but ultimately because they fundamentally believe it’s the right thing to do for the employees and their families, and it does have an impact on the overall organization,” Kelsey says.

But perhaps the most exciting development is—dare I say it—an interest in working with the government. Employers historically have been reluctant to get lawmakers involved, but it looks like things might be shifting.