Get ready for HUGE healthcare changes

WHAT? There is going to be more coverage for virtual doctors’ visits in new employee health plans along with expanded mental health benefits and access to on-site health clinics. Of course, this comes at an increased cost even though health insurers are making a lot of money.

Employees for the most part are happy with their health insurance but that happiness is going to come at a higher cost.

 Health insurance premiums and out-of-pocket costs are expected to increase about 5%, which is more than wages and inflation have been rising, according to the Business Group on Health, which surveys large companies. Employers will absorb much, if not all, of the increase for many employees.

This increase comes on top of a 4% increase in premiums this year, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation’s annual employer health benefits survey.

In 2020, the average annual premiums hit nearly $7,500 for single coverage and $21,500 for family coverage. Of that cost, workers pay $1,250 for individual policies and nearly $5,600 for family coverage, on average.

Some 53% of large employers will offer more virtual care options and they are extending the services to weight management, prenatal care, and management of chronic diseases, including diabetes and cardiovascular disease. The weight management services should be mandatory as obese employees are liable to cost companies and insurers more.

Some 91% of large employers said they would offer virtual mental health services in 2021, up from 73% in 2019. And 65% said they would provide virtual emotional well-being services next year, up from 45% in 2019.

Mark Hope, Senior Director at Willis Towers Watson

Although nearly nine in 10 employers will offer access to online mental health resources, including apps, videos and webinars employees may be afraid of using these services for fear employers are going to find out and try and terminate their employment.

What does this mean for DTC marketers?

Pharma marketers need to go where patients are going but that does not mean they have permission to interrupt employees while they are online for healthcare. Integrated content that informs and educates is going to be the standard rather than ads that interrupt and shout.

Integration with virtual physician visits is also a necessary step but again it can’t be “hey use our drug because….”. It’ time to use current patients as gateways to other patients. The sales pitch needs to be replaced with the educational information and overcoming mistrust in new drug approvals is also a needed strategy.

Finally, the increase in healthcare insurance premiums will continue to force customers to be consumers of healthcare. They are going to want more say in treatments and will not pay more for some medications because of drug company pitches.

Successful drug company will start experimenting NOW. Others will stay the course and be laggards and complain their DTC isn’t working.