In a recent article in Employee Benefit News (EBN) on the topic of health care transparency tools, writer Bruch Shutan cautions that “whittling down cost and quality measures for a more consumer-friendly presentation may improve employee uptake of such tools, but one industry expert with a medical background cautions that it could come at the expense of other important issues.“

Jeff Levin-Scherz, an M.D. and the national leader of Towers Watson’s health management practice, noted that a balance must be struck between simplifying the tools and keeping the valuable metrics and data they provide. Levin-Scherz favors including many meaningful metrics “because it probably drives quality improvement over a wider array of services.”

As a physician, Levin-Scherz is optimistic about efforts to increase transparency generally while reserving a “key role” for physicians in communicating valuable information to patients. One area that could benefit from better transparency tools and that has been prone to lack of transparency in the past is specialty pharmacy.

“If it’s for a specialty drug where there’s only one of that drug and there’s really no choice, it’s purely about contracts,” Levin-Scherz said. “But in instances like for hepatitis C, where there are multiple very highly efficacious medications, having a product design that steers people toward one or toward another can actually lead to substantially lower prices.”

As health care transparency tools and employee education increase, so do opportunities to control the high cost of health care for both employers and employees.

To read the complete article in EBN, click here.

One of the more controversial provisions of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), the excise tax on high-value health plans, goes into effect in 2018, and many employers are already making changes to the health plans they offer to avoid it. Among the changes are implementing narrow networks, transitioning to high-deductible health plans, and incentivizing participation in wellness programs that improve health and could reduce the incidence of chronic illness down the line.

With the open enrollment period for the 2016 plan year well underway, Sandy Ageloff, West Division leader of Towers Watson’s health and group benefits practice, underscored the importance of employers informing their employees of current and planned changes and what they mean.

In an article by Shelby Livingston of Business Insurance, Ageloff counseled employers to be sure that “employees are paying attention and understand the magnitude of change that might be happening in their employer’s benefit plan this year.”

To read the complete article in Business Insurance, click here.

Crossover Health and Towers Watson recently announced a collaboration to open near-site health centers to help employers provide improved access to health services for their employees. Crossover Health designs and delivers a unique employee care experience for employers through a comprehensive primary health offering. As part of this collaboration, Towers Watson provides implementation support, quality oversight and performance measurement services.

The first clinic opened on October 5th in Mountain View, California and is already fully subscribed by five leading employers, including tech leaders Intuit and Microsoft.

According to a recent study by Towers Watson, more than half (56%) of large employers have had onsite or near-site health centers for more than five years; an additional 66% plan to expand their onsite services. In addition, employers that already provide these types of facilities expressed confidence that health centers improve their employees’ health and productivity. Four in 10 (38%) of employers with existing onsite health centers plan to add new ones over the next two years.

“Employers welcome cost-effective and innovative solutions that keep employees healthy and productive, and the near-site option opens the opportunity for more employers to access this attractive offering,” said Andrew Halpert, M.D., a senior health care management consultant at Towers Watson. “Through a wide array of convenient and personalized services, the near-site health center provides a scalable alternative that can match the needs and programs of employers of all sizes. Working together with Crossover Health, we are looking forward to bringing this novel approach to our clients and delivering outstanding clinical and engagement results.”

To read the press release, click here.