Despite best efforts at containment by governments, employers and employees during this unusual time, the COVID-19 pandemic has continued to spread and place extraordinary pressure on the American healthcare system. This unexpected rise in the demand for care will likely lead to a sudden and significant increase in employer healthcare costs in the upcoming year, if not years to come. The ultimate financial impact has yet to be determined but will depend on how far the disease spreads and how much treatment those infected require.
Before the end of 2019, no one could've predicted COVID-19's impact on the global healthcare system or insurers. Unlike other well-known diseases, the cost of testing and treatment for coronavirus wasn't figured into budgets as insurance companies calculated their rates for the year. Because insurers are experiencing a momentous increase in healthcare spending due to the pandemic, it's almost certain they'll be looking to increase premiums and deductibles next year to compensate for their losses.
Unfortunately, employers and employees who may have already been struck economically by the loss of business or lost wages will be the ones carrying those costs. Some estimates say the cost of healthcare benefits for employers could increase as much as 7 percent this year due to the coronavirus outbreak. Employers must consider this increase as they design their benefit plans for 2021 and beyond, so this is a time for benefit advisors to be proactive and point concerned clients toward viable solutions.
One solution that will be crucial for small businesses and large businesses alike is direct primary care (DPC). Employers will be looking to add DPC for three reasons: The low cost for primary care is essential, the pandemic has highlighted the importance of telemedicine, and laid-off workers still need healthcare as the economy recovers.
The Low Cost of DPC is Essential
One of the major concerns for employers with self-funded health plans is the cost of covering claims after their employees seek healthcare. There's no way to predict how much employees will utilize their health plans, so this wildcard can wreak havoc on employers' bottom lines if protection isn't built into the health plan.
Direct Primary Care protects employers by diverting claims for acute care, chronic disease management, and urgent care away from health plans. Employers can give their employees affordable access to primary care to maintain health and manage chronic diseases without the risk of shock claims after the fact.
In addition to making health plans more affordable for employers, DPC also makes getting quality healthcare more accessible for employees. There are no deductibles to meet when seeing a primary care physician, and office visits are often free or cost a minimal fee.
Telemedicine Has Taken Center Stage
For years, many have sought to keep patients with non-urgent health issues out of emergency rooms as a way to control costs. No one could've imagined, much less prepared for, a pandemic that's dangerous for a subset of the population, but that most people will recover from with self-care (if they experience symptoms at all). Thanks to COVID-19, keeping people out of the E.R. is no longer just a matter of keeping costs down—it's a matter of life or death for some.
With so many seeking to avoid exposure to the virus, telemedicine and virtual care have taken center stage. Finding such care through a traditional health plan can still be costly, but when it's included at no cost to the employee through a DPC plan, it suddenly becomes the obvious choice. Utilizing telehealth and avoiding the emergency room protects patients' wallets, and employers avoid claims from E.R. visits for their employees.
Laid-off or Furloughed Workers Still Need Healthcare
A record 5.2 million Americans have filed for unemployment due to the pandemic, as of April 16. Retailers, restaurants, bars, schools, and many others were hit extremely hard by the recent world events, and many were forced to lay off or furlough workers. The ripple effect of the current state of the economy doesn't change the fact that people continue to get sick and require treatment.
Whether people are gig workers, recently unemployed, or working for employers who can no longer provide benefits, they need access to affordable primary care. During this unprecedented time, employers and savvy benefit brokers have helped recently unemployed people sign up for individual direct primary care memberships through providers like Healthcare2U. In an already stressful time, people need peace of mind that comes from knowing they can get care for themselves and their families.
If you'd like more information about helping employers or recently laid-off workers by implementing a direct primary care solution, contact Healthcare2U today.