The coalition government has certainly made its presence felt within the healthcare industry and with the longer-term shockwaves yet to be felt, Jelf Employee Benefits makes its predictions for 2011. These include the immense strain that the NHS will face, putting increased pressure on PMI providers and the amplified financial burden on employers who provide workplace health solutions. Additionally, Jelf Employee Benefits believes that consolidation of health insurance providers may mean less competition in the sector.
Wayne Pontin, Director, Jelf Employee Benefits said: “The overall status of the economy will have a huge impact on the healthcare sector in the UK. There are a lot of factors pointing towards an increase in PMI costs and employers are likely to be looking for ways to mitigate this expense. There is a stronger need than ever for employee benefits consultants this year to help employers take a long-term view and avoid any knee-jerk reaction.”
Jelf Employee Benefits summarises the main issues for 2011:
Numerous NHS pressures: With 40 percent of adults set to be obese by 2025 and sickness absence already costing UK business nearly £14 billion a year, the Government will have to commence co-ordination on workplace health. Whilst there were no cuts in NHS budgets there are cost savings which all Primary Care Trusts will have to consider in order to keep within their budgets. Herein lies a dilemma because we foresee more high cost biological therapies being ‘pushed’ into the private sector which will ultimately increase PMI costs. In addition, the launch of the new GP charter will no doubt have many teething problems during 2011.
Increased waiting lists: the pressures to keep within budgets and increased use of the NHS will see an increase in waiting lists – a potentially worrying step backwards for the NHS and patients alike.
Employers feeling the strain: Increasing costs, increasing tax (IPT up to 6% in January) and National Insurance costs up, mean employers must invest where it makes sense – in health interventions that are known to be effective. Employers will require a greater understanding of the health profile of their workforce and will need professional advice to mitigate cost increases. Workplace health may see an increase in demand for employer funded Cash Plans.
The good and the bad of insurers: On the one hand providers will start to develop a broader array of interventions that support employees to lead healthier lives but on the other, continued consolidation in the market leads to less competition in terms of both pricing and product development. On a more positive note, there will be greater cooperation in terms of electronic data exchange but 2011 will not see full claims transparency.
Wayne concluded: “At this stage it us unclear which of the above factors will have the most impact during 2011 and it may be that the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. It’s going to be an exciting, if tough year, for all involved.”