All of us know that the greatest problem with medical insurance today is what it costs. More to the point, it’s the relentless double digit increase in that cost over the last five to ten years that has employers scrambling to find ways to control expenditures while offering a benefit program that attracts and retains a high quality workforce.

How did we get here? Well, first, America has a creative and innovative health delivery system that outperforms any other on this planet. Yes, there is some inefficiency in the system, but without the billions of dollars spent on research and development annually we would not have the innovations that keep us living longer, healthier, and happier lives. That focus on innovation and positive results costs a lot.

Second, we have trained a generation of health care consumers to believe that a doctor visit costs fifteen dollars and a name brand drug costs twenty-five dollars. Employers’ generosity from ten and twenty years ago is coming back to haunt us. We offered extremely generous benefit plans because we thought we could afford them. Now that the party is over, employees are having trouble getting used to the real cost of healthcare.

Third, American health care consumers are unwittingly taking advantage of the system. Because of our great wealth in this country, we can eat as much as we want without worrying about how much it costs and, apparently, how healthy it is for us. Our activity level is drastically curtailed by easy access to all manner of transit. And when we choose to engage in activities, much of it occurs on some form of motorized vehicle. We ride instead of walk and call it exercise. Then, when our lifestyle lands us in a health crisis, we have a medical industry that props us back up and gets us back on our feet with no waiting lines. Why watch what we eat when we have Lipitor?

All of this feeds the spiral of increasing health insurance costs. We have now reached a point where owners and benefits managers know that something must change. We simply cannot continue to afford what we have paid for in the past.

So what are the most important elements of a benefit program that will help ease the spiral of insurance costs and still attract, motivate, and retain employees? We have a lot of experience in seeing what is working and what is not. And, for our clients who are taking these proactive steps to modernize their benefit plans in our challenging world, the results are starting to show. Not only in significantly improved medical renewals, but in increased levels of employee appreciation and involvement.