Employers are changing healthcare needs during a pandemic

Health care costs are rising every year, but the country’s largest employers still see coverage as an important benefit.

According to Elizabeth Mitchell, CEO of Purchaser Business Group on Health, they simply have a hard time getting the healthcare system to provide what their workers need.

Large companies are also adjusting to how these needs have changed during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Mitchell’s nonprofit coalition is helping to sort this all out by working with some of the nation’s largest employers – such as Walmart and Boeing – on the perks they provide.

Mitchell recently spoke with the Associated Press. Conversation edited for clarity and duration.

Q: During the pandemic, telemedicine expanded significantly. How do you expect this to develop for employers?

A: Telemedicine is a great example of something that we’ve been hoping to expand for a very long time. People want both. You can’t do everything by phone, email, or Zoom. You need personal care. We need to strike the right balance, which I think we can.

We also need to pay attention to whether telemedicine companies are going to continue fragmentary assistance? Will they be just another redundant service that is not coordinated?

Q: You have done a lot of research on ways to reduce health care costs and improve quality. What’s not working at all?

A: Most of what health insurance plans are doing right now. Coordination of care based on a health plan, doctors don’t want this and staff don’t. They want coordination to take place in their primary health care practice. These health plans must, for example, pay for a nurse in a primary health care facility. This would be a much more efficient approach.

Q: What do you expect from major employers to move forward in mental health?

A: The big problem is access to proper care. One approach is to build it into the primary health care system. Evidence shows that when primary care providers screen mental health and connect people with mental health professionals, this is one of the most effective ways to make sure they are getting the care they need.

Q: What are the most radical changes employees can make to their strengths over the next few years?

A: More innovative mechanisms beyond health care. If employees undergo surgery, (employers) want to make sure they get food delivery and transportation support from Uber or Lyft. How can they provide those comprehensive services that people really need? This will be a growing area.

Q: Health care is expensive. Why do employers continue to offer coverage?

A: My members are the largest employers in the world. They actively try to attract and retain the best talent. Benefits can play a big role. They are increasingly expanding these benefits – fertility treatment services, mental health services, financial services – because they want employees to be happy and healthy.