Local health care and employee benefit experts will discuss growing health insurance costs for employers and offer solutions at an upcoming panel.

“[The panel] is intended to give a sense of the landscape on employer-provided benefits in the area, particularly for small businesses,” said Andrea Baldrica, panelist and senior vice president of employee benefits at HUB International.

The 2018 Health Care Panel will focus on providing health insurance options for businesses from 11:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m. Sept. 27 at Garden of the Gods Club, 3320 Mesa Road. The Business Journal and Kaiser Permanente are presenting the event.

Other panelists include: Holly Kortum, executive director of Kaiser Permanente’s Southern Colorado operations; Tatiana Bailey, director of the UCCS Economic Forum; Brian Erling, CEO of Penrose-St. Francis Health Services; and Cory Arcarese, owner of Value Care Health Clinic.

“We are at a point where employers are facing significant decisions on whether their benefit plans are sustainable,” Baldrica said. “While most of them recognize the need for employees, [employers] also are looking for ways to have some creative options that are not passing on costs to employees but ways of managing the plans so that employees can keep them long-term.”

Baldrica plans to speak about innovative solutions employers are developing and using for their employees to keep benefit costs sustainable.

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“Some of things we are seeing today include high deductibles with self-insurance underneath through health reimbursement arrangements,” she said, adding that high performance networks are another growing trend.

“Those would be a smaller panel of providers that are adhering to either specific requirements and other times it is best practice guidelines but they are performing higher quality and higher efficiency at the same time.”

Baldrica said several of the country’s insurance carriers, such as United Healthcare, Humana and Kaiser Permanente, have a version of the high-performance networks.

“The idea is that it will drive claim costs down overall if we are managing people’s illnesses with best performing practices and providers,” she said.

Erling plans to share the health care system’s perspective.

“I am hoping for an open dialogue and I hope to be able to listen to the employer groups and hear what their concerns are as well,” he said. “We all know that health care insurance has got to be one of the fastest-growing costs items on [a business’] ledger.”

Erling said the health system’s costs rise annually in the range of 4 to 5 percent; however, premiums are rising faster.

“We have to understand why that is the case and do anything we can to help [employers] alleviate that cost,” he said.

Wellness programs are something Erling is passionate about and he plans to discuss short-term and possible long-term benefits during the panel.

“When you have wellness programs, you tend to see greater engagement, performance from your employees,” he said. “Employees are less likely to be looking for another job, and they are more likely to have better mental health.”

A reduction of absenteeism is one of the short-term benefits of wellness programs.

“That’s where you can get your immediate impact from a wellness program,” Erling said. “A lot of the wellness programs also are going to have more long-term results, which may not be felt by that employer for years or not even at all if the employee changes employment.”

Arcarese wants to help dispel myths about health care and the Colorado Springs market.

“My hope is I am able to shed some light on health care access and health equity in our city,” she said. “For me, most of our patients have Medicaid, and it is very much needed insurance in our city.”

While some believe Medicaid should be cut back and that it’s an entitlement, Arcarese said that’s not the case.

“It covers a lot of the preventive stuff that people would forgo if they didn’t have it and therefore they would end up in the hospital with more severe symptoms and taxing our community more,” she said. “While it’s long-term, it works better for our community to keep health care costs down.”

Arcarese said she joins any platform that allows her to discuss health care access in Southeast Colorado Springs.

“I hope to reach people from outside the area, so that they can gain a better understanding of the lack of medical providers here as well as a better picture of why it would make sense to the city as a whole to invest medical services in the Southeast,” she said.

Tickets are $45 and can be purchased at csbj.com/events.