CHICAGO –U.S. employers are thinking differently about health care, increasingly focusing on efforts to prevent employees from becoming sick, according to a survey by the Midwest Business Group on Health (MBGH). The group, which is a coalition of private and public employers, presented the findings of its nationwide survey of more than 160 U.S. employers at its annual conference earlier this month.

Employers were asked to rate their organizations’ benefit design philosophy as leading edge (22 percent), careful watcher (54 percent) or conservative (25 percent). The employers that defined themselves as leading edge plan to offer more programs to prevent illness and complications from illness in the next one to two years. Benefit strategies for these types of employers will rely more heavily on making employees aware that quality matters.

Ninety-five percent of employers agree that a link exists between an employee's health and their productivity. Sixty-two percent of employers who view themselves as “leading edge” will provide cash or other incentives to motivate employee use of preventive services, which compares to 40 percent of other employers.

The survey was developed to determine employer understanding, use of and readiness to adopt value-based benefit design (VBBD) strategies and to identify which strategies and experiences are currently being promoted or used by employers. Key survey components included employer demographics, positions on benefit philosophies and data activities.

“Employers are realizing that a good health care strategy includes health benefits and programs that incentivize employees to manage their own health,” says MBGH President and CEO Larry Boress. “If employers offer benefits that help keep employees healthy, in the long run, the individual and the company profits. And, our survey results clearly show that leading edge employers are almost twice as likely to provide incentives to employees to obtain preventive services and to choose doctors and hospitals based on quality.”