Survey: Large employers say bigger government role likely needed to control healthcare costs

As healthcare costs continue to rise, many large employers believe more significant government intervention will be necessary, according to a new survey.

The Kaiser Family Foundation and the Purchaser Business Group on Health polled 302 employers with 5,000 or more employees, and 85% said they believe the government will need to take a bigger role in managing healthcare costs and coverage over the next five to 10 years.

In addition, 87% said that the cost of providing health benefits will become unsustainable in that same window.

“This survey highlights what we’ve understood for some time: The current health care system is on an unsustainable path,” said Elizabeth Mitchell, president and CEO of PBGH, in a statement. 

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“Our large employer members support competition and prefer market solutions. But they have reached their limit; they’re tired of pouring tons of money into a broken healthcare market that delivers uneven quality at bloated costs," Mitchell said.

Most (83%) of the employers surveyed said the government taking on a broader role in addressing costs and coverage would likely be good for their businesses, and 86% said it would be a boon for employees.

Ninety-two percent of the employers said policymakers should focus on antitrust enforcement and block providers, payers and pharmaceutical companies from engaging in anticompetitive behavior. Plus, 90% said they support solutions to increase transparency around prices and the total cost of care.

The survey found that more than a third of large employers either somewhat or strongly support policies to cap hospital prices in markets with little to no competition, limit prices charged by providers that are out-of-network and endorse policies that would limit drug price increases.

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Larry Levitt, executive vice president for health policy at KFF and an author of the report, said in a statement that such efforts would be met with serious resistance from providers, but employers could serve as "a powerful counterweight" in the discussion as they "foot much of the nation’s health care bill."

In addition, the survey found relatively few employers disagreed with policies to lower the Medicare eligibility age or launch a public option plan. The researchers said this could be due to the lack of details around such policies but that this indicates employers are open to offering more public coverage options to employees.

"Clearly, a consensus has emerged among those who foot the bills that the health care industry is not taking seriously enough the impact of rising costs that fail to correlate with higher quality health care," Mitchell said.