Strong medicine required

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By David Chin, Michael Thompson, Sandy Lutz, and Benjamin Isgur

The current economic climate. Spiraling healthcare costs. A new administration. It's no wonder that healthcare is on the minds of US executives now more than ever. What, they wonder, will the combined impact of these forces mean for a business's bottom line in the coming year and beyond?

Even without considering those factors, the numbers are staggering: 160 million Americans receive healthcare benefits through employers, which typically spend upwards of 10 percent of payroll on health insurance for their workers. According to the US Department of Commerce's Bureau of Economic Analysis, that amounts to nearly $600 billion when taken in aggregate. Looking forward, employers want to understand just how much they can expect those numbers to increase. And they want to know how they can effectively balance these costs with the need to attract and retain a productive workforce.

Meeting these challenges requires that businesses understand how economics and policy are changing the playing field and what strategies are available to help companies meet the healthcare challenge. In particular, restructuring wellness programs and related incentives, collaborating with insurers and other stakeholders to enhance consumer engagement and support, and putting technology to work may hold particular promise.