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Employers look to control prescription opioid costs

August 10, 2016
by Tom Valentino, Senior Editor
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Large U.S. employers project their overall healthcare benefit cost increases will hold steady around 6% in 2017, according to a National Business Group on Health (NBGH) study released this week. Several specific prescription benefit management programs are among the efforts that will be relied upon to keep costs in check.

According to the study, 30% of large employers will have restrictions on prescription opioids, including more aggressive utilization management protocols and preferences for abuse-deterrent medications on their formularies. Further, 21% of study respondents plan to include opioid management initiatives, such as requiring a plan member’s prescriptions to be filled at one pharmacy, having prescriptions tied to participation in case management programs, and employee assistance programs (EAPs).

Options for mental and behavioral health benefits offered by large employers will expand. Nearly all (99%) of employers surveyed will offer EAPs in 2017, 55% will offer self-help electronic resources, such as apps, articles, videos and webinars, and 34% will offer telehealth behavioral health services.

Telehealth service offerings overall are on the rise—from 7% of large employers offering telehealth in 2012 to 90% offering in 2017.

The full Large Employers’ 2017 Health Plan Design Survey is available to National Business Group on Health members on the organization’s website.