December 2019

Advantages of choosing focused local networks

As rising costs of health care benefits continue to challenge the industry, employers are looking for answers on how they can fight this trend without negatively impacting their bottom line or having to pass the burden of rising costs to their employees. At the same time, they're looking for ways to improve the health and productivity of their employees, which may also help to control costs.

In recent years, many employers have been looking to their health insurance carriers for new solutions, such as benefit plan strategies that include networks with providers who provide quality care at an affordable cost.  While a more local/focused network might mean fewer doctors and hospitals, it’s less about the size of these networks, and more about creating a way for people to find and choose doctors who are providing quality care at a more affordable cost.

That's why health plan networks are evolving from large, national and open access networks to networks that are more local and focused, in an effort to elevate care, improve health outcomes and drive savings. Essentially, this trend is about providing choice – alternative ways to improve health and reduce costs that fit with an employer’s overall company strategy.

According to a Willis Towers Watson’s Health Care and Delivery survey, 32% of employers have adopted different types of network solutions over the past three years.  What's more, 45% plan to do so over the next three years.*

Among employers offering high-performance networks, the top two considerations when choosing which networks to offer were "quality of care" (54% said it was their primary concern) and "cost savings" (20% said it was their primary concern, compared with 40% who said it was the second most important factor). "Access to care" came in third.*

Click here for a short podcast (7:17) to hear from Julie McCarter, vice president of product solutions at Cigna, who discusses this evolution and what it means to employers and their employees.

  1. The Pricewaterhouse Cooper Health Institute Research study. "Medical Cost Trend: Behind the Numbers 2019
  2. Statistics noted are from the Willis Towers Watson 23rd Annual Best Practices in Health Care Employer Survey Report, 2018.