Whether we’re talking stop loss premiums, skyrocketing Rx costs, or even a fictitious avian flu outbreak, the recent Deep Dive Roundtable meeting sent a clear signal regarding the importance of staying vigilant when it comes to plan management.

Our seventh such annual gathering featured leading employers enjoying robust conversations around benefit strategies and spend for the roughly 50-company cohort, allowing attendees to explore how their plans stacked up against others in the market.

While data was the star of the show, we also took time to learn about implementing a workplace Mental Health First Aid program and collaboratively brainstormed a variety of benefit-focused emergency preparedness scenarios.

As in prior years, we took a data-centric approach to shed light on drivers of healthcare benefit costs and employer strategies to manage them. The analysis enabled participants to benchmark their 2022 plan metrics against peers.

The result was a healthy mix of persistent trends from the past and foreshadowing of emerging issues. Here’s some of what we learned:

  • History repeats itself… only louder this time. The key drivers of costs from past analyses (dependent ratio, high claimants, and specialty drugs) showed to be more prominent in our analysis than ever before.
  • Flat trend? In 2022?! That’s what the data said. Even in a high-inflation, post-pandemic market, the group as a whole saw overall benefit costs similar to the prior year.
  • Not everyone got off easy though: the reinsurance industry took it on the chin in 2022. Modest stop loss premium increases did not rise to meet historically high claims, resulting in heightened loss ratios for insurers and sweet (but likely temporary) relief for employers.
  • Active plan management really can make a difference, particularly on the prescription drug benefit. Some companies within our pool spent 10x what others did on Rx costs per employee during 2022.
  • That said, don’t be fooled into thinking that higher rebates alone will curb Rx spend. Despite a 24% increase in rebates, gross Rx spend (i.e., before rebates) for the group soared 30% from one year to the next.
  • Specialty prescriptions continue to dominate headlines, from GLP-1s and emergent biosimilars to Big Pharma’s jaw-dropping direct-to-consumer advertising budget. And while AI can’t solve our healthcare spend problem, it can help illustrate just how out-of-whack specialty drug spend has become.
  • Finally — our favorite trend to see repeated — we saw once again that employers who consistently participate in the Deep Dive outperform the broader field! Keep measuring, keep striving. It pays off in the long run.

We sincerely appreciate everyone who shared their data and joined us in Columbus for the day. If you were unable to participate, please plan on joining us next year as we expand and refine our data in an ongoing, collective effort to become better plan managers.