High deductible plans: U.S. companies are increasing cost sharing with employees by offering plans with higher co-payments and deductibles. According to a PwC employer survey, 44% of companies are considering high-deductible health plans as the only benefit plan options they will offer.
"That shows us that high-deductible health plans are here to stay and really driving consumers toward building cost into their healthcare decisions," says Judy. He notes that there is still work to be done by both employers and health plans to education employees about these plans. "There's concern that patients may defer care, but most high deductible plans offer first dollar coverage for prevention services."
Judy says two factors are exerting upward pressure on healthcare costs—an increase in specialty drug costs and industry consolidation. Although generic drug use is at an all time high, he says approval of generics is slowing while higher-priced specialty drugs are poised to account for 60% of all government drug approvals by 2014. The report notes that approvals of new biologics "now outpace traditional therapies, and that pattern will continue in 2014 as research efforts target complex cases such as cancer."
Meanwhile mergers and acquisitions activity is approaching the level of merger mania of the 1990s. While industry consolidation can improve efficiencies by eliminating duplication, Judy cautions that it typically leads to higher costs. "They have the ability to control how consumers access the delivery of care."