Understanding Prescription Drug Pricing Trends
In 2019, the United States spent nearly $370 billion on prescription drugs, keeping trend with significant increases year over year. Although prescription drug spending has historically been a small proportion of national health care costs compared to hospital and physician services, it has grown rapidly in recent years—comprising about 10% of national health care spending. Below are the two major factors contributing to the rise of prescription drug costs:
- Influx of specialty drugs—Specialty medications account for a smaller portion of U.S. prescriptions than non-specialty drugs, yet they command nearly half of the pharmaceutical market. In 2021, experts predict an 11.5% increase in specialty drug prices, compared to a 2.8% rise in non-specialty drug prices. These manufacturer price increases are often cited by insurers as reasons for rising insurance premiums.
- Price inflation—According to a Segal report, 40% of new products recently launched by drug manufacturers were specialty medications. These drugs are now being pushed at a higher rate than non-specialty drugs, contributing to price inflation. Specialty drug utilization increased by nearly 6% in 2020, whereas non-specialty drug usage remained relatively the same. And there is little recourse for anyone seeking an alternative to these specialty drugs.
Yet, despite these trends, there are cost-cutting strategies available to employers. These include managing drug usage, utilizing rebates, and educating employees. Reach out to learn more about these and other budgetary tactics.
3 Voluntary Benefits Trends to Watch in 2021
Voluntary benefits have always been great tools for rounding off employee benefits offerings. And that value isn’t lost on employers—at least 50% offer some sort of voluntary benefits, according to an Alera Group report. Employers can expect to see voluntary benefits grow in these three key areas in 2021:
- Expanded offerings such as eldercare and critical illness insurance
- A focus on financial wellness, including budget counseling and financial planning
- Greater customization, allowing employees to pick and choose what’s best for them
Voluntary benefits include dental, vision, critical illness, pet insurance, and similar offerings that are paid for partially by employees. During the COVID-19 pandemic, having additional benefits options like these could be exactly what employees need. Specifically, these trends indicate employees want more control over the benefits that are important to them.
Reach out to learn how to help employees maximize their voluntary benefits.
Balancing Caregiving and Your Career
The demands of caregiving and working a part-time or full-time job can leave you exhausted and stressed. When left untreated, chronic stress can develop into serious health problems, including depression, anxiety and cardiovascular disease.
If you are struggling to balance your career with the demands of caregiving, consider the following employer-provided resources:
- Shift flexibility—Talk to your manager about how to make your schedule less burdensome by altering your hours or telecommuting.
- Employee assistance program (EAP)—Be sure to discuss your EAP options with your HR representative. They will likely be able to chat about care management and determine if your situation qualifies you for any benefits.
- Stress management—Talk to your manager and other co-workers about organizing stress-relieving activities at the workplace.
This balancing act between providing care while working full or part-time can be both stressful and exhausting. For additional resources, contact your HR manager.
Lower Your Health Care Costs by Improving Your Well-being
Taking control of your overall well-being can greatly lower your health care costs. Lifestyle changes can help prevent or lessen the severity of health issues, which may result in fewer health expenses and greater well-being.
Consider changes to address components of well-being:
- Physical well-being—Stay physically active, eat a well-balanced diet to fuel your body, and get enough sleep each night.
- Mental well-being—Find ways to deal with stress, like journaling or meditating, and consider therapy to talk to a professional.
- Social well-being—Join a club or sports team to meet new people.
The Basics of FSAs
Flexible spending accounts (FSAs) provide you with a tax advantage to help pay for health care and dependent care. As an employee, you set aside a portion of your pre-tax salary in an account, and that money is deducted from your paycheck throughout the year. Consider the following types of FSAs:
- Health care reimbursement FSAs can be used for your deductible, copayments, and eligible health care expenses, including prescription drugs, dental costs, eyeglasses, and contacts.
- Dependent care FSAs let you use pre-tax dollars toward qualified dependent care, such as the cost of nursery schools.
FSAs are beneficial if you have out-of-pocket medical, dental, vision, hearing, or dependent care expenses beyond what your insurance plan covers.
Please reach out to one of our agents if you have questions.